I have gained some first hand knowledge about mini site development, and I would like to share some of it in case it can be helpfu. Some of this knowledge has been gained from buying mini sites and putting those up, buying mini sites and adding content, and creating my own mini sites; while other information is somewhat obvious.
Domain names that I either own or sold, where I used mini sites include UniqueInk.com, BullRidingHelmet.com, Secaucus.com, FuelAssistance.com, WeddingEntertainment.com, Oenophiles.com, and DebtAssistanceClinic.com – all of which had/have different mini site set-ups.
I found that I had the most success when I purchased mini sites rather than having built them on my own. I was able to enhance the pre-fab sites by adding pages of content based on keyword research within the paramaters of the nice looking design. Not having to fuss with templates and pictures and the initial content saved me a few hours worth of time, and it gave me a great foundation to build out the sites even more.
I’ve discussed strategy to building out mini sites in previous posts, but basically I used the Google keyword tool (and others) to find out what people are looking for related to the topic, and I created pages based on this information. The pages had limited but adequate information about the topic, and it included Adsense and/or links to the source of the topic. For example, on the page about an outlet mall, I linked to the outlet mall within the text. I also populated the pages with photos from iStockphoto.com, which are cheap and help enhance the appearance of a mini site.
The objective of a mini site is to make money from Adsense or advertising, but it’s also to provide a nice website that is liked/accepted by Google and by visitors. If a visitor leaves the site after 2 seconds, Google may give it a poor quality score, lowering its rankings on the SERPs. Ideally, traffic will grow on a mini site because of the Google rankings, so the lower CTR is hopefully offset by higher traffic. This is important to consider when building pages.
The only time I recommend that inexperienced developers (who have jobs and other family commitments) build their own sites is when they really want a mini site but the quality of the domain name is lacking, and they want to learn about development by practicing. It doesn’t usually make sense to pay $100-1,000 for a mini site on a domain name that isn’t worth that amount, but it has been a great learning experience for me.
Some might argue that UniqueInk.com is more of a brandable name that might not be worth building, however, due to it’s initial launch before I owned it, the site already received enough traffic to justify. Building out a mini site from scratch takes time, but it is a good leaning experience. I will do it again for sure, but I am lucky to be a full time domain investor, so it’s a nice break from my daily routine.
I urge people to only develop mini sites on domain names that are category defining (the exact keyword string) for a term/phrase that is well-searched – especially if it doesn’t already get type in traffic. The point of a mini site is to provide content for people looking for whatever the domain name would imply by getting listed in the search engines. A 3 word long-tail keyword might not get typed in frequently, but when someone types it in to Google, if there’s a site with good information, it will probably rank well and get traffic in that way.
If you build a mini site on a brandable domain name, chances are good that it will have trouble ranking for the exact term you want – especially if there’s any competition, so you will end up spending a lot of time and effort that probably won’t pay off in the end.
There are plenty of mini site options available, and testing is key. Just like you can’t expect to get rich with a newly registered domain name, the same can be said about mini sites. They may enhance the value of a domain name, but execution is key, and you can’t expect a mini site will be a magical solution.