April 2009

This issue takes a close look at the two leading alternatives to domain parking. Both WhyPark and DevHub have been around for a while (DevHub formerly called EvoLanding). Both provide scalable domain development into mini-sites, but they approach things differently. We will also hear from Howard Hoffman in the second installment of his 'By the Numbers' column.

WhyPark adds Features and Charges

WhyPark was the first quasi-development platform. For $100 you could add up to 100 domains and they would build them out with content from article directories. You added your own AdSense ad code and you had a site full of content. At least that was the original model. WhyPark started having problems when Google started shutting off the AdSense ads because of duplicate content. They developed their own ad feeds, but they keep a part of that income on top of the $100 joining fee.

WhyPark has morphed into a development platform. They now offer traffic and link-building services such as blog placement services, content development, directory submissions, and RSS syndication services - all for additional fees. You can order custom design services, content development and domain analysis - all for additional fees.

I don't have a problem with these additional services costing more, but they even charge fees for use of any of their newer templates. They really want you to pay them at least $10 a month to upgrade your account. Right now they offer a small selection of "standard templates" and a much larger selection of premium templates. I don't know what the premium templates look like, because I haven't paid up. Their pitch:

"WhyPark Premium Templates are only available to customers who subscribe to the Enhanced ($10/mo) or Managed ($25/mo) accounts.

Upgrade Your Account Now and get instant access to 387 additional templates, including 3 templates in this category."

WhyPark does not have the selection of widgets that DevHub has, but they do allow you to put RSS feeds on your site.

At least I thought they did.

The option for RSS feeds is labeled "Only available in the Enhanced and Managed plans."

The current incarnation of WhyPark appears to a nice one-stop shop for domain development and site building. I haven't tried the value-added services, but they do seem reasonably priced. I do think that simple features like RSS feeds should be included in the $100 that you pay up front.

If you have already paid your $100 and are just using the minimum feature set, you should check out their premium services. It's nice to see this feature set offered without the hassle of dealing with independent contractors from eLance or similar services. The drawback is that these services appear to only be avialable for domains that you have "parked" with WhyPark . (Okay - maybe "parked" isn't the right word.

DevHub improves on EvoFormula

DevHub is a tool to help you develop your domains. It is essentially the reincarnation of EvoLanding, the service that created great looking sites that did not monetize well. The new sites look even better, but the big news is the control that you have over your sites on the back-end. Below is a screen shot of the DevHub editor.

Most of the page is taken up with a graphic representation of your site.

You can drag and drop widgets from the right-hand column and they will show up on the page. You can easily build-out eight pages of content on your site. If you had sites at EvoLanding, then the pages are there for you to edit. If you are adding domains, you start with a blank slate and drag widgets to the page.

The preview of the active site is available even if you don't have the nameservers or c-name settings changed over to DevHub. The second graphic is a screen shot of the actual site that results from the control panel above.

I haven't done much editing of the site in this picture since it was an EvoLanding site. You can see, for example, that the "news" is called the "Latest About Mental Health News." One quick change and this becomes "The Latest Mental Health News" - much more logical. With EvoLanding this was impossible to change. With DevHub it is a snap.

Job searches default to the location of the computer's ip address, which is a nice touch. Local Search does the same thing, or you can change both of these - which is quite useful if you have a geo-domain. It is very easy to add blog posts and other content to your sites. This type of content should help SEO - but it means writing articles by hand (or hiring someone to write them).

As domain monetization moves away from domain parking toward other models. DevHub is a leading contender in the race to build scalable, quickie development platforms. They have even provides ways for you to integrate custom content and your own monetization alternatives. The jury is out on the income levels, but the platform is certainly slick and user-friendly.

By the Numbers -by Howard Hoffman

In the February newsletter, I discussed the decline in revenue from parking pages. In this installment, we will look at some of the reasons that Revenue Per Click (RPC) has declined.

At DOMAINfest Global in January, Google representative Hal Bailey blamed the decline in RPC on Google-supplied parking pages on the decline in the world economy. Certainly, there is some truth to that, at least over the last 12 months or so. As companies see their business contract, they reduce their advertising, including their online advertising. As companies go out of business all together, they cease all advertising. Fewer advertisers competing for clicks means that they will be paying less for those clicks. On the other hand, my results indicate that RPC started to decline well before the current recession even started.

Google and Yahoo have both figured out ways to keep a larger share of the revenue. As an early advertiser on Yahoo PPC (back in 2000 when it was an independent company called GoTo.com), I am rather familiar with the purchasing side of Pay Per Click. Last year, Yahoo revamped their advertiser interface and offered me a one-on-one session with one of their support staff. In the old days, if I wanted to bid on a term, say “Las Vegas Hotel”, I would bid a specific number, say $1.00. Today, it is possible for a Yahoo advertiser to bid one amount for “Search” pages and a different amount for “Content” pages. As an advertiser, I recently was encouraged to bid lower for the content pages. So, I might only bid $.50 for the term “Las Vegas Hotel” on content pages. On search pages, Yahoo (and Google) collects 100% of the revenue, since they own the page. On content pages, Yahoo has to share the revenue with the parking provider and the domain owner, typically keeping on the order of 35% of the revenue (the actual percentage is kept confidential from the general public, including domain owners).

Most PPC advertisers set a daily maximum and/or a weekly maximum and/or a monthly maximum for their online ads. So, if Yahoo can shift a larger percentage of the revenue pie to Search, then they keep a larger percentage of the advertising revenue. Clearly, as a domain owner, I would rather get a percentage of $1.00 clicks rather than the same percentage of $.50 clicks. It is clear that the RPC has declined sharply at parking providers fed by Google as well as Yahoo.

Getting advertisers to bid less for Content Page clicks solves another important issue for Yahoo and Google: Click Fraud. A significant amount of click fraud is caused by unscrupulous parking page (and other content page) owners clicking on ads on their own pages or by incentivizing others to click. If an advertiser is now paying half price for a content click, even if 10% or even 20% of the clicks are fraudulent, then they are still paying less per honest click.

Another factor which probably has helped the decline in RPC is the huge increase in the number of parking pages. With a greater supply of parking pages, all other things being equal, one would expect that RPC should decline. Today, in addition to many of the large (and even small) domain portfolios being devoted to parking pages, the registrars, who used to put up “Under Construction” pages for new domains, are now in on the parking game. A company like GoDaddy has to be generating many millions of dollars each year from the ads on the newly registered domains owned by their customers. Given the thin margins available to registrars on most registrations, new registration parking has become a very significant revenue stream.

As more advertisers discover the benefits of online PPC advertising, and as the economy improves, we might expect to see RPC bottom out and, hopefully, start going back up again. However, I am not going to be overly optimistic. Like many other domain owners, I am looking at other ways to increase my domain revenue, and will discuss some of these in future issues.

In my next column I will discuss trends in different sectors within domain parking.
-- Howard Hoffmanhas a BS in Civil Engineering from MIT and a MS in Environmental Engineering from Stanford University. He is a serious investor in domains. Based on his early experience as a PPC advertiser, he embraced the income side of PPC and was an early user of domain parking services. He shares some of his recoomendations at PPCIncome.com. Look for in-depth exploration of the domain monetization numbers in future issues.