I’ll keep this Friday’s post short and sweet because this is definitely a topic I could talk about for…well a really long time! It’s a story of two brothers who found a model that not only worked fifteen years ago…but that is still the best model for success I’ve seen yet. The Castello Brothers started in the early days of domains and could have easily parked all their names like most Domainers did and collect the money. However from the very beginning they saw domains as brands, and one by one they built an empire of online brands.
From one of my personal favorites, Whisky.com to my childhood vacation destination LagunaBeach.com – they have some of the most premium real estate out there. Okay – so now back to the title of my post – these guys had it right from the beginning and it’s taken me until this year to really wrap my head around it…but now I think I get it!
Since 2007 I’ve been working on building my own little empire of sites but focused on quantity over quality spewing-out tons of mini-sites, all with good content, but none a brand onto itself. While I got lucky and did end-up with some lucrative sites that still make me grin when I login to my affiliate accounts, for the most part I missed the largest and most reliable form of revenue – direct advertising. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve not complaining about what I’ve built, but I’d like to be making $xx,xxx/month rather than high $x,xxx/month – right!
That’s right, I’ve talked a lot about affiliate marketing and lead generation on my blog but I don’t think anything is as pure and simple as direct advertising. Having a direct relationship with your advertisers means you can deliver to them a significantly higher level of service than if the ad was fed through a 3rd party network. If you have the traffic, or the brand I’ve also found that direct advertisers contact you.
Let’s take Kayaking.org for example, I turned this into a mini-site last year, no traffic, no ranking, no revenue. This year following a lot of what I’ve seen the Castello Brothers do with their successful sites I built-out Kayaking.org into a real website and online brand. I provided more content than ever before and added a custom directory and trip report feature. I started a twitter account and began engaging people online. Before I knew it I was contacted by an outside advertising agency, there was a bathing suit manufacturer who wanted to advertise on my site.
They had found me on the first page of Bing and looked at the site, saw me as an authority, and wanted to be on the site. If you’re doing things right and building a brand, these kind of things should happen! On Kayaking.org we are also contacting kayaking stores and rental locations and getting them to join the directory as well as potentially become advertisers on the site. We’re just beginning this process but I’m trying my best to use the same model the Castello Brothers have on so many of their successful sites.
I’ve bumped-into a lot of Domainers that have been around since the good old days and have been living off parking revenue for a long time. Now as parking has declined they’re looking for a solution, a way to get that revenue back, while they were parking the Castello Brothers were busy building brands!
So does this mean affiliate marketing is dead? No, not at all – I still have plenty of sites doing well with affiliate marketing and even AdSense. However…for a long-term model it would be nice to not have to depend on Google for your revenue, would it? Let’s face it – we all know that the future of Domaining is moving more and more towards building brands online rather than just selling a flat domain with some parking revenue. In this Brave new Domaining World brand-building trumps quick revenue.
This is not a sponsored post and the Castello Brothers have no idea I’m writing this. I felt it was about time to write this post – I’ve learned so much from the Castello Brothers and see how much they give back to the community. It’s about time for me to make sure all of you know who these guys are because they are one of the few who got it right from the beginning!