We often joke around with our companies at INcubes about opening a domain business—by the time they launch their product, they have purchased quite a few domains, most of them dormant until the day of the actual launch. On launch, the company chooses one of the purchased domains to be the homepage of the service, and redirects the other domains or leaves them empty until they expire.
Could anything valuable be done with the purchased domains before launch? Is paying attention to the domains a good use of the company’s time and resources?
The answers are yes and yes. In the following article I will share with you four free and simple ideas for what you can do with your domains before launch—a good practice especially since product development tends to take more time than originally anticipated.
1. Start a blog.
Using services like WordPress, blogger, and others, you can have a blog on air in no time. Having a blog has substantial SEO value: your domain is indexed on search engines before you launch and you will maintain the page rank your blog gets even if you replace it on launch day. In addition, one of the factors that determine ranking in search engines such as Google, is the frequency in which the page is updated—and a blog by definition updates frequently.
“I’m working on my product, what if I don’t have time to write a blog?” Consider hiring a writer, outsourcing the job, or getting an intern to help with the writing.
The good: easy to set up, significant SEO value, especially if you provide high-quality content. When you launch, your efforts will not be lost; you can continue using the blog on your site, providing relevant content and driving in search traffic.
The bad: requires maintenance (writing and uploading posts), either by you or by someone else.
2. Gather a mailing list.
Whenever we get an application at INcubes, one of the first things we do is click on the URL provided by the company or type in the company’s name followed by .com or.ca in the browser. I am always amazed by the number of times we get an error page or a page full of cheap looking ads (kindly provided by the domain registrar)—even when the company provides the URL in the application!
Wouldn’t you like your visitors to see something that relates to your company, such as an invitation to a private beta or a form to fill to get notified when you launch? Having an invitation or a form will allow you to collect emails, so you can later engage with interested visitors and invite them to give feedback or join your platform.
The good: easy set-up, high marketing value.
The bad: it is very likely that at this point you don’t have enough traffic to create a substantial mailing list. Still, a few email addresses are better than none.
3. A/B testing.
If you have a few competing ideas regarding your desired layout, content, or design, your pre-launch period is the best time for an A/B test. Performing an A/B test ahead will allow you to gather enough insight and launch with an optimized website.
The good: who doesn’t want to launch with an optimized website?
The bad: you might not have enough traffic to get significant results, and would have to pay to get visitors to your website.
4. Make money with ads.
There are countless resources on monetizing your domain; however, it all depends on your traffic—you will only make money displaying ads when you have a high volume of visitors, and that is rarely the case for pre-launch startups.
It’s a whole different story if you purchase an active domain that attracts significant traffic. In this case, you can analyze the target audience of the site and display relevant ads, or let ad networks such as Google display place ads for you based on an algorithm.
The good: you might make some money.
The bad: if you get traffic that is relevant to your product, a page full of ads doesn’t look inviting. A landing page that relates to your product is much more impressive.
5. Mix them all.
My strategy of choice would be to leave the ads out and implement the first three all at once: start a blog and gather emails and optimize (A/B test). If you get enough traffic, you can throw in a few ads that are not too intrusive, yet for most startups the gain from having ads is small compared with the gain of having a professional looking website.