The Joy of Domain Parking: Part 2
Earlier this summer I began a look at the alternatives available to those of us who have domains on our hands but neither the desire nor the resources to build them out to full-blown sites. Beyond simply using the domain parking provided by your registrar, what are the possibilities?
I was clear at the outset that nothing I was going to encounter would turn my motley collection of domain names into a cash gusher. It was more a case of seeing how much time and energy would be required to simply generate some kind of cash flow, however modest. In fact, my goal was to find out what it would take to break even on my domain registration costs. That works out to about 1 dollar a month, per domain, in revenue. Not overly ambitious, I think you'll agree.
As I reported in June, my first stop was with Google's AdSense for Domains program, which since then has been displaying a simple page with related ads on a dozen of my domains, such as Auberges-Bistros.com. Have I made the princely sum of one buck a domain per month? No. In fact, the amount is statistically closer to zero. Admittedly, not all of my domains are magnets for type-in traffic, but they're not all duds, either. So I'd say don't get your hopes up if you're pondering Google AdSense for Domains as the path to monetizing your domain name investment.
If you don't want to let your registrar try to squeeze a few pennies out of your domains, Google has been ruled out and developing a full-fledged site from scratch isn't an option, what's left? Welcome to the world of "instant" site generation, where tools provided by a variety of developers can quickly crank out sites for your domains. These are designed to be search-engine friendly, require no further intervention and, most importantly of all, generate income. Of course, here you're paying for software, as well as a monthly hosting fee, so your revenue will have to be that much higher to make this approach profitable.
I began by experimenting with Instant Site Machine (ISM). To get started with this, you first upload the provided files to your server and then log onto the admin back end, where you edit parameters and optionally input content. Clicking on OK then pushes your changes live—it's as simple as that. Think of it as a bares-bones content management system with an emphasis on creating monetizable pages. ISM's approach provides a pretty good balance between providing enough defaults to create simple sites fast, and options to generate a richer, more-targeted visitor experience.
To try this out I used my royalty-free-stock.com domain, which you can see here. What you're looking at was generated by ISM, without any coding on my part, using one of the supplied templates. Some of the templates are a bit rough but you can customize them using parameters in the admin area (part of which is shown below), directly modify their style sheets or even use your own template.
Near the top of the home page you've got your classic Google ads, as well as in the right column and on the bottom of the page. Just entering your Google AdSense ID in the admin area is enough to make these ads live, with areas in the admin also provided for your AdSense Channel, AdSense Search ID and even Google Analytics ID. The world is larger than Google, however, and you can also enter Amazon, eBay and ClickBank IDs, and have these ads display immediately. Of course, you can also display your own banners and ads.
I could go on, but this captures the essense of Instant Site Machine. I found it delivered on its claim of providing a fast way to generate sites that combine static and dynamic content, with a goal of providing a framework for related ad content. It could also serve as a good introduction for those not familiar with integrating RSS into an ad-driven site. Will such "instant" sites generate money? It seems to me that they have the potential to do so. I'll fiddle around with Royalty-Free-Stock.com and report back in a future installment, when I examine additional ways to monetize your domain names.
You can download a trial version of Instant Site Machine, or purchase it for $180, which allows you to use it to generate an unlimited number of sites.
Founding editor, Graphics.com