Burbank.com Update from Fred Mercaldo | DomainInvesting.com
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Burbank.com Update from Fred Mercaldo

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Burbank, CaliforniaA little over a year ago, I announced that I had reached an agreement with Fred Mercaldo and his team to utilize the City in the Box platform his company created and operates. This would allow me to focus on other areas of my business while Fred and his team managed Burbank.com.

In subsequent posts, I’ve promised to provide an update about working with Fred and his team, and I am happy to do that today.  Burbank.com officially launched on the new platform in June of 2010, so it’s been a little over 7 months so far. Fred provided the comprehensive update below, although I asked him not to use the actual numbers since my business finances are private, and I have no need to share them publicly.

Before getting into that, I want to mention that the site made only a couple hundred dollars per month when I was managing it. I did a good job of growing traffic, but selling advertising has never been an interest of mine, and I didn’t do a great job at it. Also, in addition to any revenue mentioned by Fred below, my company is also making mid $xxx a month on the job board and hotel reservations.

Fred’s Update:

Elliot, I’d like to share with you and your Blog participants about the progress and monetization of Burbank.com.  Last summer, we completely changed the platform over to our City In The Box software solution.  Additional time went into the project, as your existing site was indexed very well, and we did not want to lose any of the optimization that was present.

Marketing Burbank.com became part of our Citiesplanet overall marketing efforts that support close to 60 City.com websites.  Our monetization goals at first mirrored our successful game plan that built Scottsdale.com, including the following:

  • Developing exclusive relationships and partnerships within certain verticals, such as Real Estate, Hotels, etc.
  • Building a “Premium Listing” strategy allowing business to upgrade their listings on the Directory Pages.
  • As an incentive to do business with Burbank.com, offering businesses Feature Story and Feature Interviews on the Home page….which gives them excellent exposure, but also provides much needed unique content for the site.
  • Partnering with local media to promote and publicize Burbank.com with trade deals, such as local newspapers, magazines, radio, etc.

We knew that marketing from a central location in Scottsdale, rather than having a strong local presence directly in the Burbank area, would not be as effective, however we would also not have the expenses and overhead necessary in staffing a local office.

We developed custom Media Kits and email presentation templates for use with Call Center personnel, utilizing Exact Target as our email partner, and SalesForce as our CMS software.  While waiting for the Call center to begin, I entered discussions with many potential advertising partners that would benefit from national advertising on our network.  This was new territory for me, as all of our past success was based on LOCAL, however with a good national base of 60 cities, I thought it was a natural and obvious move.

While we were successful in signing some decent contracts, my production fell short of my goals, and the #1 reason was traffic; since most of our sites launched in the past 2-12 months, traffic was in the 250,000-300,000 uniques per month range.

I then began communicating with the many large “local directory….city guides” types of companies in the market, and was successful in forging a relationship with LocalGuides.  During the “getting to know each other” phase with LocalGuides, the Call Center I contracted with started and stopped within 2 weeks.  This had nothing to do with the process or feasibility of marketing the Premium Upgrades from a central Call Center; it is being done successfully every day by many companies; but nevertheless this Call Center failure was a setback.  It turned out to be a poor choice of partners on my part.

Meanwhile, we were slowly but surely increasing revenue each month across the network from various sources.  National network advertising deals were providing $4,000-$6,000 per month in revenue. Recurring advertising contracts made by my sales staff were totaling $17,000 per month across the network…..some of which are split evenly among the 60 sites; some are split via a percentage of monthly traffic, and some are exclusive to a specific site.

We have signed numerous advertising deals for Burbank.com….a few restaurants, some premium directory upgrades, etc.  We have implemented numerous monetization platforms such as YP for the Directory (and we still can sell Premium Upgrades), an Employment partner, an Apartments partner, hotel deals with IHG and Priceline, and take advantage of Google Display advertising.  LocalGuides provided numerous partnerships for us, and we were able to take advantage of their 4 million monthly visitors “buying power” and I’m convinced our deals are the best.

We have finally convinced Universal Studios to give us a serious look, and this relationship looks promising.  A relationship with the local paper also looks promising, and we have been pursuing this since last summer.  We are adding additional deals onto Burbank.com, such as GolfNow for tee times, and others in negotiations right now…all of which will contribute to the monthly revenue.  We have been successful in working with the City of Burbank, as they regularly contribute to articles and our Calendar of Events.

Next month, CitiesPlanet is launching a Syndicated Featured Columnists section that will appear across over 120 city and state.com brands, along with the entire LocalGuides network of over 4 million viewers per month.  There will be 16-20 weekly articles on features such as ARTS, FASHION, GREEN LIVING, HEALTHY LIVING, TECHNOLOGY, etc. and our list of participating partners, writers and sponsors are impressive.  Since this is about Burbank, I will only say that this feature will generate Burbank.com $500 to $1,000 per month in the 2nd quarter, with the potential to be much more as the year progresses.

We have another Call center we are in discussions with, and we will see how this goes.  We continue to search for the right Real Estate partner for Burbank.com, and I am disappointed that we have not been successful on this category.  Overall, things have taken longer than expected, however the progress is real.

Between local advertising, YP, Employment, Paid Content, national advertising, Apartments, Hotel, Google display ads, and other various initiatives, we are generating $x,xxx per month….on our way to $xx,xxx per month (numbers omitted per Elliot).  We also plan on hiring a direct salesperson full time to service and build from the base we have created…hopefully by the 3rd quarter.  I know many people have been asking, and I’m glad to share this update.


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest.


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Comments (24)

    Jp

    Contests but question,

    So it now makes $x,xxx month, but you gotta pay Fred. After paying Fred are you still $x,xxx a month? I also wonder how much this new dedicated guy that is getting hired is gonna effect the bottom line.

    February 23rd, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Jim

    “…we are generating $x,xxx per month….on our way to $xx,xxx per month”

    Great example of the importance, relevnace and power of a good Geo related domain and fantastic residual income generator.
    Congrats to you and your CITB partnership, Elliot .

    February 23rd, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Elliot Silver

    @ Jp

    I am not sure what the total numbers are. The accounting has taken a while to set up since there are so many moving parts (and different cities/owners), and I do not know what my net is yet. However, I can safely say that the number is greater than what I was earning on my own after all costs.

    New guy will drive more revenue.

    February 23rd, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    TeenDomainer

    Wow there is so much going on with the site, a great update thanks for sharing.
    Its really interesting for me to see how much work goes into building a great city site, keep up the great work.

    February 23rd, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Robbie

    Good to hear that things are moving in the correct direction for Burbank.com – Congrats Elliot!

    February 23rd, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    James

    Thanks for the update. I’m glad to hear that you’re actually in profit taking into account their fees. It sounds like it’s working out quite well. Good luck and i hope the growth continues.

    February 23rd, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Anthony Hanner

    A good, driven salesperson on the ground out there 5 days a week…pounding the pavement and the phones and e-mail…should bring in 5 figures a month regardless of any other monetization avenues.

    Having a dedicated salesperson out there is key.

    Great to see all of this, Elliot…good stuff.

    February 23rd, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    James

    Actually i have a question – what guarantees do they give you that they will make money? From what i’ve heard the fees are pretty hefty. If you hand over all that money and the site is unprofitable it’s an unpleasant situation you find yourself in. I find it hard to believe that every site on the platform is a “winner.”

    February 23rd, 2011 at 12:50 pm

      Elliot Silver

      @ James

      There aren’t any guarantees of revenue. I based my decision off of Fred’s track record.

      When a company hires a new employee, they may spend quite a bit of money training that employee, and if the employee doesn’t work out, they’ve lost their investment. They base their hiring decisions off of the person’s resume and interview. I know Fred, have had many conversations over the years, and I trust him. I based my decision on Fred’s experience and knowledge that he is going to work his ass off to make this work.

      February 23rd, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Leonard Britt

    Thanks for sharing this. Being local helps get relevant content but if sales isn’t your thing, selling ad space is not necessarily easy. Many local businesses have “No soliciting” signs outside their doors – you have to respect that. One can also target known advertisers in local print publications but again email marketing often has very low response rates. Traffic and search rank undoubtedly help support the discussion but the concept of online advertising doesn’t always hit home with some small businesses.

    February 23rd, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Troy

    It was great to get the follow up and I am glad to hear that things are going well. I am a little confused about the post however. What exactly did you learn from it? Are you making money off of it after the fees? Are you making more than you did without them?

    I agree, having a local person on the street that is a good salesman will make all the difference in the world.

    Congratulations on what I hope has been a profitable partnership so far. Fred seems to really know what he is doing.

    February 23rd, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Troy

    Would you mind sharing your total traffic for the last month or so? Not the revenue or other stats, just how many visits your getting.

    February 23rd, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Elliot Silver

    @ Troy

    In the ballpark of 20,000 I believe

    February 23rd, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Troy

    Uniques or pageviews?

    February 23rd, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Elliot Silver

    @ Troy

    Over 50,000 pageviews.

    February 23rd, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Troy

    Thanks Elliot.

    February 23rd, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Geo.com is king

    Congratulations Elliott!

    Fred is a class act and got to know him last summer. He took the time to answer any questions I had. Very honest guy, humble and one day we shall meet. Unfortunately the domain had been sold under NDA.

    Regret some things and not rolling with Fred unfortunately the domain name was not directly owned by me. I tried convincing owner and cash flow for years to come. One day I will do business with him. He is a true player and his record shows it.

    Scott Day, Telepathy, couple others are all with Freds platform. The true players in the domain industry.

    Congratulations Elliott and making a wise choice. Wish Fred the very best. Every geo .co should be developed and Fred will thankyou for free traffic. Lol. .com is king for a reason!

    February 23rd, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Jeff Edelman

    Very interesting read. Is it fair to ask the structure of your agreement? Do they earn their money strictly as a percentage of revenues or is there a monthly guaranteed fee that they receive plus a percentage of revenues?

    February 23rd, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Tommy

    20,000 unique w/ 50,000 page views is a high bounce rate. That surprises we with so much content. I wonder if it would help to make the hotel, event, job, real estate, and restaurant section stand out on the homepage.

    February 23rd, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Elliot Silver

    @ Tommy

    Since hotels and jobs are affiliates not on the main site, visitors who visit those pages think they are on Burbank.com because of the style/theme, but they count as bounces.

    February 23rd, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Tommy

    That makes sense. How does the SimplyHired job section generate revenue? Do you earn money “every” time someone clicks on a job listing?

    February 23rd, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Elliot Silver

    @ Tommy

    Paid for clicks and also jobs that are posted via Burbank.com.

    February 23rd, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Mars Davis

    Elliot, Thanks for sharing info about your geo site. I am just curious… what does the “right” real estate partner look like? Also, have you considered talking directly with the local board of realtors. The local real estate board might have a budget for online advertising… just my two cents! Cheers, Mars

    February 24th, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    David

    Most real estate agents do not understand the Internet or keywords. They think they can add “cityrealestate1 (dot) com” or use the “2345address (dot) com” of the home as a domain name and make it work.

    It is all worth while, but the pure city name is much better … my two cents as well.

    February 25th, 2011 at 11:54 pm

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