I hate cyber-squatters, but I thought it would be fun to write a post about how they work and what they do. Everything in this article is known. There’s nothing new here, it’s all pretty much common sense if you mess around with web site creation. Still, if you’re new to this type of tech, and you’re wondering why some web sites have such strange content in them, this may provide an explanation. People are doing it for money.
There are many ways to make money on the internet, and one of those ways is by squatting on a domain name. This is fairly simple to do, you just go to a provider like https://www.register.com/ or http://www.active-domain.com/ type in the domain you want, and look for it. If it’s available, you’re presented with the purchase options. If the domain name is taken, you can hit http://whois.domaintools.com/ to see who owns the domain, and in many cases you can make an offer to the owner. (Not all domains will show up in “whois,” however, and recently they’ve started selling ways to prevent site owner info from showing up there).
In general, the price of a domain varies considerably. You can get one for around $10.00 or less if it’s a brand new domain that has never been used. They can also be a LOT more, particularly if the domain is in use or has been in use. This is because domains are investment property, just like real estate. You might wonder how this works, and how people can make money doing this.
First, you find a domain that’s relatively cheap. You want a name that relates to the content you’re going to put on it, so don’t bother buying a name that doesn’t relate to anything you can produce to put on that site. After you’ve purchased the site, you need to find a server to host your content. This is fairly easy, but can get expensive if you pick the wrong one, so shop around. Do a Google search for “Hosting Services” and start looking. You don’t need a lot of whiz-bang features for what you’re going to do, unless you plan on making an actual business site that you’re going to sell things over. Primarily, you just need a web page server that provides some templates for your web pages (unless you’re going to do the design from scratch, but unless you’re familiar with web design, you’re best off going with templates).
Once you’ve got your server, search around on the server’s site for associating your domain with your location on the server. All hosting services will provide this for a fee. This is typically a yearly fee so it should be considered in your budget. Once you’ve targeted your domain name to a specific location, people typing your domain in their browser’s address bar will be directed to the index file in the folder on your hosting server. The index.html file you specify is your starting point – your home page for the website. It’s also the most important page because it’s the one that search engines will probably find first and weigh the most with search results (although this varies between different search engines).
At this point you’re ready to lay down some content. That means designing web pages using the templates on your hosting server. When I started doing web design in the 90s, I generally used a software application like Dreamweaver to design and setup the site and handle the cross linking. This isn’t necessary for what you want to do. You don’t need any professional tools, your hosting server should supply all the templates and provide you with a way to upload your content (such as images) to a folder you can use to access them.
I’m not going to get into cascading style sheets or flash or any of the other fancy things you can add in this article, but I will say that there are a million things you can do to modify and customize your site if you want to get into web design. It’s fun, and it’s a serious time-sucker. So if you’re doing this just to establish online real-estate as an investment, stick with the templates for now. Your time is also your money.
After establishing the site, it’s time to create some content, but not just any content. You need to put something here that relates to the domain name. If you bought “FabulousBologna” for instance, then you may want to write about bologna. Research your target subject, develop or purchase a library of images that match your target content. Now start writing about bologna. Cross link your pages with hyperlinks. Get involved with Google Ad Sense – https://www.google.com/adsense/login/en_US/ and put up a banner. This is a nice way to make a little money on the side while you’re waiting for your domain to start getting hits.
One of the most important things you’ll want to do is understand search engines and how they rank pages. Your hit statistics are going to depend on a variety of factors, and the more hits you get when people search for bologna, the more valuable your real estate will become. But, remember, you’re doing this to eventually sell the domain, so don’t kill yourself. It takes time to establish a domain presence. Your ratings are going to start low. Meta tags, content search terms, and title text are your friends, they should match on each of your pages to help the ranking. You’ll also want to post in a variety of places with links back to your site. These need to be related to your content, so go to other bologna sites and blogs and articles and post something interesting with a link back to your site. These are link-backs, and they’re valuable.
Your hosting server should provide you with statistics so you can see how many hits you’re getting. The more hits the better, because eventually you may be approached to sell the domain. Let your registering agent know that the domain is for sale, and provide them with a price (when you’re ready). After all, you’re in this for the money and technically you’re a cyber-squatter sitting on a domain and grooming it for eventual purchase.
Some cyber-squatters don’t bother posting anything good on their sites. You can get away with this if you’re lucky enough to own a domain for a company or product that now wants to buy it from you. For example, you might buy the domain “BigSistersCookies” or something, and maybe some company comes into existence with that name and wants to buy it. Boom, instant cash. That’s a cyber-squatters dream sale, but don’t expect it. You can buy domains all day and not get that lucky.
Now, personally, I don’t DO this. I find cyber-squatting to be disgusting, primarily because I’m a content developer and I LIKE to develop sites and keep them. This means cyber-squatters are my enemy because I don’t buy a domain to sell it, I buy it because I want to put something there and turn it into a unique and interesting landscape. But, despite my disgust, I understand it, and I know people who do this kind of thing on a regular basis. Heck, some of them have their own companies who do this.
I should add that paying a celebrity to post a YouTube video about your site that you can then put up right on your front page doesn’t hurt. You want to start a science fiction site, then get William Shatner to give you a thirty second spot talking about your SF site. This gives you instant legitimacy. People won’t even know you’re only doing this to suck them in. They may never know. Put up some blogging software or a forum and start discussions about your topics. Now you’re building a community, and that gets you a continuous stream of hits. Your real estate doubles in value. Some people simply steal content and plagiarize other sites. (Some of your blog entries might be event be on them). And some people turn their real-estate into web portals targeting other similar content.
How much will your site be worth when you sell it? That depends on your search ranking for your target subject, and how badly someone wants the domain name. Sites can go for thousands and some for hundreds of thousands (if you hit corporation pay-dirt). In the early days, cyber-squatters were grabbing real estate left and right. Celebrity names and company names were the biggest targets. And you’ll likely want a .com name, although .net and .info are becoming valuable now too.
The technology involved in domain name hosting and search engine ranking is always on the move and constantly changing. The internet has become far more multimedia than it used to be, and far more interactive. To make your property valuable, you should continue to research new ways of establishing your ranking. This is true even if you aren’t squatting for profit. Vlogs, Blogs, podcasts, and images are all popular content these days. In the future, a web site may be just as interactive as a first person video game.
So, yes, if you do this, you’ll be a jerk. I will despise you. But you’ll be a jerk with money in your pocket. And, if you were going to be a jerk anyway, at least you’ll be able to buy a decent meal. Me, I’ll stick to buying domains I want to turn into something cool, and keep.
I thought abut this last night and realized that I should probably clarify my position on this. I’m not generally opposed to people buying up domain names and producing relevant content for them with the intention to sell. It’s the plagiarism and/or the bad content that I’m opposed to. By that, I mean people who buy domains and then don’t do anything with them. There’s nothing really wrong with buying property and then managing it in a good way, with the intention of developing it and selling it later. But just sitting on it so that someone else can’t use, or developing it with content stolen from someone else – that’s what I’m against.