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New Domain, But Not Ready to Put Up a Site? Here’s How to Park it Better – for SEO & Income

December 24th, 2010 by shawn · 1 Comment

We’ve all been there: you’re going about your business when a website idea hits you like a runaway Buick driven by an elderly man. You rush to the nearest computer, search for the domain, and to your great relief you see it’s somehow still available! With trembling hands you quickly purchase the domain before someone else, somewhere else in the world, manages to register it before you do – because you know someone else has the same idea at the exact same moment.

But it’s all over now. You can breathe. You’ve got that GoDaddy receipt in your inbox, and the domain is yours, dammit. You’re just completed step one in your journey to making millions.

…aaaand the domain sits in your registrar account, undeveloped, until renewal time. Along with dozens of other domains.

These domains are the neglected red-headed orphan bastard children of SEOs, affiliate marketers, wannabe domainers, blackhats, and other such internet people. We’ve all done this to some degree – some more than others. I’ve known people who described themselves as “domain addicts” and I’ve known other people who’ve purchased only a few domains. But all the internet people I’ve known – designers included – own unused domains. Orphan domains. Domains equivalents of latch-key children, left to their own to watch He-Man after school, and eat Hot Pockets made in a dirty microwave. But I digress.

We all want to revitalize these neglected domains, and give them a purpose. There are only a few basic things that any of us wants to accomplish by owning a domain:

  • Provide a service and make money
  • Sell a product and make money
  • Present other products and services and make money

We also want to do this quickly/easily. We also want our website to become valuable in the “eyes” of the search engines (since we always have SEO in mind).

But we usually do none of this – we buy the domain and it sits there with a “What you want, when you want it” page or a registrar holding page. We can do better than this. So let’s automate.

What I’m going to talk about is a blueprint for how to do this – I’m not giving out specific code. But it can be scripted in any basic web scripting language.

Your Hosting Set Up

First off, you should have either a reseller hosting account, a VPS, or a dedicated server in order to automate this to the max. Your normal shared hosting account won’t allow you to do it totally “hands-off”. The other setups will have a way for you to set up files in one location and then automatically work whenever you set up a domain – and that’s ideal (if you’re lazy). So if you have a reseller account with WHM (Web Host Manager), you will place the files I’m about to talk about in the “/cpanel3-skel/public_html” directory – and every single domain you setup from that point on will have those files placed in it’s hosting account. That’s basically how your host places it’s own branded landing page in your brand-new hosting account. You’re going to be doing the same thing, except it’s going to be your landing page with your ads.

If you do not have access to a skeleton directory or a dedicated server, you can just develop and keep the files on your computer and upload them to your hosting account when you get a new domain. The work will be minimal (just set up hosting, log in, upload the files, and edit one section of one file) as you’ll see, because you do the hard part one time and you can use it for a million different domains from that point onward.

The Basic Plan

So, now to get to what the hell I’m talking about. This is something I do for my domains. I have a series of files set up in my cPanel skeleton directory, and whenever I buy a domain I set it up in WHM and the files are there in the new hosting account for that domain. I then log in to that hosting account, and I add keywords to a keyword file. When I visit my new domain, it displays one of the keywords in an H1, it shows some relevant ads, it shows a few paragraphs of content (all about one of my keywords), next it has relevant links, and then I have some images related to the keywords and also an Amazon product (if applicable). This is all done without me touching it again. If I leave the site as-is, it is very relevant in to SE’s and it also has a goodly amount of words and pictures on it.

Oh yeah: if someone searches for a keyword that is not in my pre-made KW list, THAT keyword is the one they will see in the H1.

What this means is that my site is always relevant to a certain theme (or niche, or vertical, or whatever we’re calling it now) both to a visitor and to a SE bot. The content is relatively beneficial to a searcher (well, that’s arguable, but it’s better than a GoDaddy page with their logo and some ad links). The content changes constantly. And there are some other features I will elaborate upon. But so far, so good – right? I mean, it should even make Matt Cutts happy if he were to judge the site by the letter of the Google law.

The Ingredients

So now you’ve got a good overview of what should happen, and why. Now on to the specific ingredients.

My skeleton directory has a few files: a CSS file, an index file, a functions file, a keywords file, different ad files (for different ad networks, in various formats), and a themes folder. The index file controls everything – it’s the “brains” of this mini-site building engine. It creates the HTML output, but before doing so it has to make some decisions. (If you keep all the major parts of this system separate, you can always add to the system easily, BTW.)

When a browser calls the index file, a few things happen:

  1. It looks to see if there’s a cached version. If there is, it shows that. If not, it gets ready to render a page.
  2. If we’re at step two, it first looks to see which template to load. I have a bunch of templates ready to go, and I coded this so I don’t have to actually set this option – yet it will still show the same template each time, yet the choice will be random. How to do that? Hint: use the domain name to decide. You could do it a few ways based on that. For instance, deciding based upon a specific letter in the domain name. (Or, just set which template you want with a config option. But I like this to be hands-off.) All the templates are set up to display the same pieces of info, and they’re all simple basic HTML/CSS.
  3. Step three grabs the keywords. Keep these in a text file either as a comma-separated list or one per line, and parse them. Or, you can do away with the keyword file and put them into an array right there in your index file. I find a keyword file is better because it will be the ONLY file you need to ever open, and if you set it up where it’s one keyword per line it’s so much easier. You want the file to have *very* closely related keywords. Question: what do I use to get my keyword list? I use Market Samurai. (That is one program I use almost every day for different tasks, but I love it for keyword research. Once you learn how to use it, it becomes invaluable.) I export my keywords and upload the list and I’m done.
  4. Next, the script detemines if there is a search engine query. If there is, that word is displayed in H1. If there was no search (it could be type-in, direct traffic, or a link from some other site) a random keyword from the list is placed in the H1 spot.
  5. Now the first function is used: pick a random keyword. Then, scrape a few paragraphs from my favorite content-rich website related to the keyword. (You can use Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers, ArticlesBase, YoMama, whatever you can come up with here.) The script then displays that content, but only after removing the original formatting and then applying new formatting. Get creative here. Does the original site use paragraphs? Put it into list elements. Does it have a table? Use divs. Are the original entries comments? Remove all the stuff saying “latest comment”.  Make it different.
  6. Next, the same thing happens but for pictures. Pick a keyword, get a picture. (Where to get pictures? Hmm. If only there was a website that showed nothing but pictures, based on a user’s search.)
  7. It gets another keyword, gets more content, and repeats. It keeps doing this with various types of content.
  8. It then shows the footer, and ends.

Now I realize that some of this was vague, but my object is not to tell you exactly which types of content to place and where. My object is to give you the idea. If I told everyone what to do, there would be a bunch of sites that had the same content (or least the same order of content).

You can probably see why I have a functions file: the functions do the tasks that comprise the site. There are functions to get content from half a dozen sites, a function to get keywords, a function to get a random function, and a few other things. The caching code is actually in my index file, along with other logic.

The ads, by the way, are included by the template. I use a few different ad networks. I’m not keen on using AdSense alone.

For stats, there’s one option: AWStats. This is because it’s built in to every cPanel account, basically. Otherwise, you gotta set up an account, paste in the code, etc. Remember, we want to not have to edit or setup anything if we can help it. Besides, these are pretty much parked domains – so do we really need much more? AWStats will give you the keywords you want, when you get ready to turn this into a “real” site. So in my opinion, it’s fine.

Content Options

Just in case you’re wondering about where to scrape content, let me give you a few more ideas: RSS feeds from just about any site, articles sites, wikis, any “updates”/microblogging site, an aggregated feed you make yourself (think Yahoo! Pipes), video sites, and e-commerce sites. Think of places no one would want content from, and use it on your page. How much content? Probably the 5-paragraph range is the minimum. See when the ads become relevant, and then add a bit more. Make sure you have at least some pictures.

Other Ideas

If you want to get a bit more fancy, you can set it up to turn the keywords or search queries into GET variables and use mod_rewrite to generate clean URLs. The reason for pursuing a setup like this is to generate a multi-page site. I’ll leave that up to you to hash out; it’s just an idea.

You can also put a contact page, just to give it more of the appearance of an actual “site”.

Also, you can link to your other sites – using the domain for outbound link value. (Think about using this for SEO value for your other, existing sites – especially when those domains are in a similar niche.) You could do this with a “links” file (set up like your keywords file). Place the links either in the content, on a sidebar, or in the footer.

Next Steps

Hopefully, you don’t go too many months until you turn it into your dream site. But when/if you do, you will have this domain indexed in Google and maybe even some Pagerank. (Yes, you can amazing get a PR2 from something like this. Based on what, I don’t know.) Get all the queries that led visitors to the site (from your AWStats) and implement them in your new site along with your keyword file words and you’re on your way.

I hope my ideas at least spark someone’s imagination out there – while I wish GoDaddy and their landing pages all the best, I think it would be better if more of us made our own LPs and got the ad revenue. (Remember, this blog is about regular people making money online.) So I wish you readers the best, and as always I am glad to answer any questions you might have about this.

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    1 Comment

    Comment by Kacy Lund
    2010-12-29 17:09:23

    Love the information here. Adding to my bookmarks. Thank you!

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