Can You Make Money Today With Directories on Long Tail Domain Names?
Neustar Domain Names

Can You Make Money Today With Directories on Long Tail Domain Names?

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I received an email from Fred Mercaldo asking a question regarding his portfolio of long tail geographic service domain names. His portfolio of developed domain names had once been making a fair amount of monthly income, but it seems that since the Google algorithm updates, the traffic and revenue have gone way down.

In emailing about this with him, he thought it might make a good discussion if I posted his email question here to get additional insight. The discussion should be about operating directory websites that make money on long tail domain names.

Here’s what Fred had to say:

I own 217 CityNailSalons.com portfolio….such as ChicagoNailSalons.com, PhoenixNailSalons.com, etc.  Bing still ranks them at #1; Google we have dropped of the map with.  (There are Adsense errors right now if you look at the sites….we are fixing today).  Last year, we were making $2,000 per month; now it is less than $100.  Personally, I believe each site is worth $300, making the portfolio worth over $60,000…..but try as I can, I cannot get $42,000.  I absolutely won’t sell it for less.  I’ve read numerous articles that Google was penalizing long tail exact word domains that are part of a network; but recently I’ve also read that it isn’t totally true.  My first choice would be to sell the entire portfolio; but second choice would be to monetize it.  Who do you know that is successful in this type of long tail directory portfolio with SEO and monetization? 

Do you have a similar experience with developed domain names? What would you recommend to Fred to increase his revenue and/or help his company get maximum value for the sale of these domain names?


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 (41)

    Anticareer.com

    I looked quickly at ChicagoNailSalons.com. It lists nail salons in Chicago in a directory format and other then that it is all ads (Adsense and Amazon Astore it looks like). The message boards have 2 posts with 0 replies. There are 3 articles with 500 words or less. There’s not much meat on the bone to have Google rank it well. It is a typical MFA (made for Adsense) site. These worked like magic in the past, but they don’t rank on Google today.

    I would not spend anything in SEO and put 100% of the budget into content if you’re going to spend anything. You can SEO the hell out of a thin sight and it may rank for a little while but it will go away pretty quick.

    Pay for 50 original articles to be written, add them at a pace of one every few days. Let it rise back in the Google rankings. Get some revenue. If it can make $100/month you can sell it on Flippa for $750. In the end the articles will pay for themselves, you’ll get the $300 you wanted, and you’ll have a few months of Adsense earnings in your pocket too.

    May 6th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Scott Neuman

    Elliot, I’m not sure how Fred is going to fix this. Google has stated to me they don’t want these types of sites and have the past locked out the adsense links from our sites. Other then selling banner or side advertising in each city, Fred has a lot of work in front of him. As for the value of each domain name, $800 might be high for some of them when you consider the value is partial built into what the domain name makes, now less then 50 cents per month. I’ll suggest leasing them to the stores in each town for $50.00 per month with a free hosting account. Hosting accounts can be purchased for $150.00 per year for unlimited names. That will return him to $1000.00 per month plus he might pick up custom website designed worth $1000/$2000 each.

    May 6th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      Chelsea

      “Google has stated to me they don’t want these types of sites…”

      Hi Scott!

      Very Interesting, Scott… particularly insofar as you are referencing your own, real-world experiences in this regard.

      could you be so kind to elaborate as to the specific “types” of sights you’re alluding to here (e.g., is it Directories in general; Geo Directories; Connected “networks” of Directory sights (ie., “footprint/ bad neighborhood” issues); something else?

      Thanks so much in advance for sharing your insights!

      Chelsea

      May 6th, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Tommy Butler

    I would build the network sites to take salon appointments build out the directory to give each salons own page.

    Gone are the days of just adding directory working on adsense you have to take next level of creating pages for the salons and allowing them to add content and take bookings, This will bring in more traffic and also please natural advertisers.

    May 6th, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Jen

    Remove adsense from his directory for now and spend some time researching the Offline section at the Warriorforum.com
    for directory and lead generation business models. Secure your own paying salon and similar type business clients on your directory.

    Yes things have changed drastically because the big “G”orilla has turned their focus and money investing buying all kinds of service & software companies that cater to local search behavior.

    Trust they’re keeping smaller, guppies out of those real lucrative local waters which would include the directory business model.

    It’s not impossible to regain your footing but you’re going to have to regroup your traffic generating strategies. Again spend some time over at the WF to gain better clarity about your situation.

    May 6th, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    JP

    I have no good answer to this so not sure I should be posting here but this is the problem with relying on Google. Especially when Google doesnt like stuff like this, openly.

    It’s a good time to send out a reminder that if you are making good revenue off of google, best to take half of it each month and re-invest it in something non-google dependant. That way when google fires you you have something else going on (though I’m sire Fred has plenty of something esles going on).

    May 6th, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    doc

    I think the majority of directories will still work, but its the category that makes the difference…I am working on some restaurant names, which is more searchable and valuable than nail salons..Its the same as comparing used cars to new cars. What will get more interest today. Nail Salons or Attorneys..Nail Salons or Beauty Salons….IMO

    May 6th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Domenclature.com

    Due to the magnitude of domains here, and the potential for significant losses, I’d spend some money and hire a professional company, in at least a couple of fields.

    This entails serious business decisions. The domains seem to be okay, so any adverse punitive actions by Google is part of my complaint, on the apparent arbitrariness of the internet business environment, that a collective action must be part of the solution. Who should determine what a website owner should do with his site? A competitor? Some nerds that have never gone door knocking to make sales? It’s bizarre.

    May 6th, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Patricia Kaehler

    Fred — You could also sell ad space in each of those cities to the branch out support products /services for that category. . .

    Hair — Spa / Tanning / Makeup / Fashion / Local Beautician Schools Etc… Jewelry Stores – Candy Stores – Accessories. . .

    and or use Amazon Aff Prog on the sidebars with related products. . .

    Good Luck to You. . .

    ~Patricia Kaehler — DomainBELL
    .
    .
    .

    May 6th, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    don

    this biz model died 4+ years ago, the sites have zero content, thus hold zero value to google and no-one is buying these networks anymore.

    The only real option was already mentioned, invest back into the business or take the 42k

    May 6th, 2013 at 2:40 pm

      Jen

      I disagree. This business model is extremely profitable to the point that most major retail companies own at least some type of directory.

      Sears, 1&1.com, Homeadvisor(formerly Service Magic) heck what do you think Google Places is but a directory of businesses. The list goes on.

      It’s Google’s playground and they’ll let in who they want to play. Just take a look at the types of companies they’ve bought over the years.

      You might begin to see a connection to the types of companies that have suddenly lost footing in their serps as Google gain dominance in their own search results for industries online affiliates like folks like us used to make a killing in just a few short years ago.

      Example: banking, mortgages, travel, hotels, restaurants come up in the search engine results in all of these industries. Heck even within the apparel industry Google is a large affiliate for a few international apparel companies.

      Their GAN (Google Affiliate Network) program was the best in house testing lab experiment to date for them I’m sure as it allowed them to see first hand what categories of business sells well online and establish personal relationships with a variety of industries across the board. Oh yeah, they closed shop on their GAN program last month. Guess they got all the info they needed.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mergers_and_acquisitions_by_Google

      May 6th, 2013 at 5:17 pm

      Furkat

      Good Point!

      May 7th, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Josh

    I believe the key here is to add value for your targeted visitors. Why would someone come to your directory sites instead of going directly to Google Places where they can find everything your sites list and more?

    If you can find a way to add value, I believe you will see an increase in rankings.

    Possible ways to add value:
    -Call and interview the owners of each individual business you list in your directory or send out questionnaires.
    -Add a way for customers to review listed businesses.

    May 6th, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Patricia Kaehler

    Update – My comment was for what to do After you make the sites Content Rich and Worth a Visit (Bookmark) etc. . .
    +
    Contests
    Coupons
    Local Events

    ~Patricia Kaehler – DomainBELL

    May 6th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Fred Mercaldo

    Many great in depth comments here, and I appreciate all of them. Yes, content…original content….is sorely needed, and Patricia is correct about selling direct advertising. There are many potential candidates in the beauty business. We spent a week on a call campaign but experienced language issues along with privacy issues. The receptionists hesitated to give out the owners name, and basically all they were there for were to book appointments. Like many of us that are busy,this has taken up less than 1% of my time because of the CitiesPlanet project, and it shows!!! But these are exact keyword search matches, and I am going to take into consideration everyone’s great comments and advice. Success or not, I will report back! Possibly as a few of you stated above, I may be able to monetize and sell individually for much more….$750 times 217 equals $162,750….and even with $50,000 of content and development it still will net $112,750….but I can’t help but think as a group they are worth more. Great example of domains worth as just domains versus what they are worth developed and monetized! Again, please keep advice and comments coming and thank you all. Fred.

    May 6th, 2013 at 3:17 pm

      Scott Neuman

      Fred, I’m hoping you get those numbers you keep mentioned. Did you get an offer for $150K?

      May 6th, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Anon

    “I believe each site is worth…”

    “…but try as I can, I cannot get…”

    It seems as though your beliefs aren’t in line with the market. That means one of two things. This is an inefficient market decision in your favor in which case selling is a huge mistake, or in which case the market is right, you’re wrong and you need to adjust your expectations.

    The days of sham development are over dude. Accept that. It was a good ride. It bought my 2nd home. Dem days are done.

    May 6th, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Steven

    These sites are worthless. I’m not saying directories in general are worthless since you could build individual high quality directories one at a time with a lot of passion and effort. However, these sites are obviously made with the primary purpose of displaying ads, and this does not provide a good user experience. The days of ranking with these kind of 5 page automatically-generated sites with a few terribly written 500 word articles are over.

    The domains themselves hold some value in that just by parking them with a for sale banner and pricing them at $2K each you might be able to sell 2% per year.

    May 6th, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    rob sequin

    “Bing still ranks them at #1; Google we have dropped of the map with. Last year, we were making $2,000 per month; now it is less than $100.”

    Yikes.

    I guess no one uses Bing.

    May 6th, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    eh

    Fred,
    Thanks for sharing, your situation.
    Have you tried selling all these names to a company that makes acrylic nails, polish, nail accessories, etc?

    May 6th, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Sforde

    Ugh no1 these domains are yuck and not worth cor IMO. Networks STILL work when they provide value. There’s no value here. Also relying on Google for traffic is deaded.

    May 6th, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Fred Mercaldo

    All….admittedly the programming and content is very poor. But they were making $2,000 per month and the question remains how to restructure the content and SEO to provide value to the viewer, and also get the proper rankings in order to monetize. I again appreciate all of the positive and excellent suggestions. I am confident that if I could spend a decent amount of time on this project it can be valuable. Is there anyone out there that is making significant revenue on directory sites such as this? There is a ton of money in nail salons and beauty, etc however if I turned it into a lead gen site, since the price points are $39 manicures, the price per lead would be insignificant, compared to real estate, insurance, loans, etc. Having said that, there are a ton of nail supply and polish companies out there….much work to do and right now I do not have the time……still looking for a passive turnkey $2,000 per month! (Aren’t we all?!!!! LOL)

    May 6th, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      geoffrey

      Fred,

      you have been resourceful to us and hundreds.

      Please shed off these properties, then buy one good one.

      Too many for two little ROI in directory formats today.

      May 7th, 2013 at 12:34 am

    BullS

    Can You Make Money Today With Directories on Long Tail Domain Names?

    Of course….like $50/mth and less.

    Sorry, google won’t be your SugarDaddy any longer.

    May 6th, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    don

    the bigger issue isn’t the directories, is that you have 260 of them, without a serious committment to content or user generated high quality content, combined with offsite optimization (not interlinking these together) your network holds no value, emd’s with low quality content that have been de-ranked from google are not going to reappear, you have to adjust your expectations to the current market or make the decision to invest heavily, I just dont see a huge demand for this vertical so you may never be able to justiy an roi.

    May 6th, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      Chelsea

      “combined with offsite optimization (not interlinking these together) your network holds no value”

      Don, just to clarify, your reference to “offsite optimization” is a recommendation *NOT* to interlink the sites together, correct?

      In other words, your saying that construction of a network through interlinking of the sites is a harmful drag on their performance (i.e., a “footprint/bad neighborhood” sort of issue)?

      Thanks for your insights!

      May 6th, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    Nadia

    I’m hesitant to give a guy like Fred Mercaldo who has developed infinitely more sites than I have advice, but as someone who’s currently mapping out a development and marketing strategy for a directory-based site, I’ll throw in my two cents.

    In this case, I think “value” (as others have stated above) comes down to whether you’re providing something visitors are looking for. There are a lot of nail salons, but compared to the other array of “Beauty” related services, it’s a niche directory.

    I think directories can still be useful, but primarily in areas that lend themselves to a lot of online research by the visitor. I’m not going to be inclined to search for a nail salon online—more than likely, I’ll choose one I happen to pass by at the mall, or on my drive home from work. It’s more of a “convenience” thing instead of a decision that requires a lot of comparison shopping.

    The technical value of the site does play a factor – I’m getting a lot of SQL errors in the “nearby salons” feature and maps that aren’t loading properly. Today’s visitors are savvy and are quick to hit the back button after seeing that sort of thing.

    Lastly, a lot of domainers settle for the easiest, fastest options when it comes to putting up a site, and sadly, that doesn’t really fly anymore. Fred obviously knows how to develop content-rich, dynamic websites with direct advertising, but also know that it takes an enormous amount of time and effort. Without a dedicated team, it would be hard to get any of these nail salons to claim their listings. And directories with scraped information are a dime-a-dozen.

    I think that in order to stay afloat, a site can’t ONLY be a directory—you have to offer something of value to the clients who are signing up for listings, as well as visitors. People can get basic phonebook information from Google. It would be hard to build an interactive, engaging site around nail salons, but then again people can say that about any niche.

    Thanks for being honest and sharing this information, Fred. I hope you figure out a good solution, and I wish we weren’t all so indebted to a single “source” (Big G) for our traffic and revenue. If anything, it forces us to continually evolve, and rethink our strategies.

    May 6th, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Thomas Price

    Hi Fred – I’ve had the same experience. From around $3000 per month passive income on a group of similar domains to around $300 – and decreasing steadily every month. I, as well, don’t have the time or staff necessary to dedicate to rebuilding my network. There are still similar sites that rank extremely well in Google, but they are primarily corporate sites that have huge social media/link building/advertising budgets, and use that budget to build content and drive traffic. It looks like the days of the “little guy” and “niche sites” are coming to an end. I guess there are still ways that a person could make a living with Adsense, but I’m not very optimistic. It’s going to take some work :) In the meantime, it sems I’m paying more in renewal fees than I am making.

    Thanks for posting this. I agree with your statement “I am confident that if I could spend a decent amount of time on this project it can be valuable”. I will be watching the responses as well. Thanks again!

    May 6th, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    DNM

    ChicagoNailSalons.com has two sites linking in and 3 articles. It is easy to order quality content for your directories. You can do this at TextBroker.com.

    Also, you can build quality links by writing content on high Google Page Rank websites that are relevant to nail salons. You also missed out on prom traffic on the East Coast, but can still capture traffic on the West coast.

    You have the be innovative. Your websites look appealing, albeit they lack content and links.

    For example, Elliot’s DogWalker.com has 150 sites linking in and plenty of content. Your nail salon websites have low keyword searches. Exactly 56 exact match searches per month won’t get you any traffic. However, you can write content that will capture quality traffic.

    Another idea is to acquire a quality nail salon domains to build as your primary website. Then, you can utilize the GEO domains as link-ins to that site. Now you can get ranked for your main website to cover all GEO searches. Create the main website and have the GEO site follow after (i.e. salons.com/chicagonailsalons)

    Two obvious problems are lack of content to get ranked for the long-tailed keywords and 2 sites linking in. I own two long-tailed medical domains that are searched above 1,000 exact times per month locally. For one of the medical domains, I rank number #3 on page #1 for a specific keyword that delivers the bulk of the traffic.

    You don’t have to get ranked for your keyword. Why would you wants to get ranked for Chicago Nail Salons when the search value is low. Have nail salon customers write reviews on your website to give feedback. Market ad space to capture the nail salons in that specific area. Spend some money on content. Invest in some better searched domains to serve as feeders. Think about acquiring one high searched domain to develop into one standalone site with the GEO domains serving as feeders.

    Good luck.

    May 7th, 2013 at 5:17 am

    DNM

    ChicagoNailSalons.com has two sites linking in and 3 articles. It is easy to order quality content for your directories. You can do this at TextBroker.com.

    Also, you can build quality links by writing content on high Google Page Rank websites that are relevant to nail salons. You also missed out on prom traffic on the East Coast, but can still capture traffic on the West coast.

    You have the be innovative. Your websites look appealing, albeit they lack content and links.

    For example, Elliot’s DogWalker.com has 150 sites linking in and plenty of content. Your nail salon websites have low keyword searches. Exactly 56 exact match searches per month won’t get you any traffic. However, you can write content that will capture quality traffic.

    Another idea is to acquire a quality nail salon domains to build as your primary website. Then, you can utilize the GEO domains as link-ins to that site. Now you can get ranked for your main website to cover all GEO searches. Create the main website and have the GEO site follow after (i.e. salons.com/chicagonailsalons)

    Two obvious problems are lack of content to get ranked for the long-tailed keywords and 2 sites linking in. I own two long-tailed medical domains that are searched above 1,000 exact times per month locally. For one of the medical domains, I rank number #3 on page #1 for a specific keyword that delivers the bulk of the traffic.

    You don’t have to get ranked for your keyword. Why would you want to get ranked for Chicago Nail Salons when the search value is low? Have nail salon customers write reviews on your website to give feedback. Market ad space to capture the nail salons in that specific area. Spend some money on content. Invest in some better searched domains to serve as feeders. Think about acquiring one high searched domain to develop into one standalone site with the GEO domains serving as feeders.

    Good luck.

    May 7th, 2013 at 5:17 am

    Karl Jackson

    Well, if you can’t beat em then join em.

    My thinking is to find domains that Google says gets thousands of exact searches.

    My biggest one to date and is also for sale is Gmail-Sign-In.com

    Google adwords says Approx. 2.4 million exact searches are made for the exact keywords in the domain each month.

    The key here is to make a google friendly bog with relevant “content” articles and seo it to the front page which should not be too difficult.

    So two things will happen. Keyword revelant domain that Google algo will obviously note. Plus once on the first page, it will get an enourmous amount of daily traffic. Gmail-Sign-In .com

    May 7th, 2013 at 7:08 am

      Josh

      Hi Karl,

      I mean no offense, but the real key here is for you to reassess your strategy. Gmail-Sign-In.com is in no way a good domain or a domain that you should have registered.

      Firstly, it contains the trademarked term “gmail.” Secondly, it contains 2 hyphens and it is not possible for you to add the content that a potential visitor would want. When someone types in “gmail sign in” into google, they are looking for the actual GMail sign-in page, not a blog about how to sign in…

      May 8th, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    don

    @chelsea – yes

    I would state I have not reviewed the link makeup from these sites, but this is a common practice when building networks of similar keyword related properties to gain quick traction. Almost any documentation you will see from google will state they are not a fan of hundreds of cookie cutter sites with similar content, they would prefer a main site with sub pages.

    May 7th, 2013 at 9:01 am

    John

    The best suited for making directories are
    .tel domains.
    They are very inexpensive and easy to make.
    You don’t pay for hosting, special mobile version, don’t have to hire a web developer
    You can contact required merchant just by clicking on their telephone number, that’s
    it. Simple and straight to the point.There is even map included and you can add video and pictures.
    If I am looking for a nail salon in Chicago all I need is contact information I don’t need to read about how to make my own nail polish or history of nail polish inventors. Take a look at one example,
    all information I need if I am looking for a business on Robson Street at
    robsonstreet.tel

    May 7th, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Gary Yeardley

    Some good feedback

    From an seo point of view built 1 site instead of lots of interlinked longtail domains. Building content & links to 1 site will allow you to create an authority site instead of lots of mini sites with less authority. These may just look spammy to Big G.

    Also from a user/visitor point of view it will appear a more trusted resource. I agree with above go for salons.com or similar (obviously get a domain within budget). Maybe even create a brand (isalons.com) or find a generic salon type domain that is more affordable. Maybe salonservices.com as an example off the top of my head.

    My guess is people looking for a salon will be looking for what services they offer, how local they are, directions, opening times, offers, reviews, salon photos. Try add as much value to the visitor. Have a list of what each salon offers; kid friendly, spa, massage, hair, nail

    Research how other directory sites are adding value and try and find something that will set yourself from your competitors.

    Hope this helps and Goodluck with whatever you decide.

    May 7th, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Lance

    I do geo searches quite a bit (example: I just searched for “photographers in Maui” today). I find Google Places to be a reliable source of information. I also rely on review sites (yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.) or my own network (facebook) for customer feedback.

    I think the only way you can compete with trusted sources like Google Places and established review sites is to find some major competitive differentiators for your sites.

    The big question is: will there be enough of an ROI on these domains to justify the investment required to develop them such that they can differentiate from the established sites. With 200+ domains names to invest it, I think it will be a challenge.

    May 7th, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Jeff

    Fred has a great portfolio of generics and knows his stuff. By the way Fred, congrats on a name you sold and begins with a “b”. A great geo.com developer.

    Good luck in the plans with all of this. Rely on google and search engine traffic vs pure geo.com domains and type in traffic.

    Reading this is reassuring me I am on the right track and what not to do on development. For me and my views. Direct navigation, domain sales.

    May 9th, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Fred Mercaldo

    All….as a result of all of these excellent comments and suggestions, I registered iNailSalons.com this week, in the event it needs to be built with one main site with the other domains being sub sites. I also may just begin the project of selling them all one by one….with A rated cities at $1250; B rated cities at $750; and C rated cities at $350. Is there any aggressive brokerage that anyone knows of that specializes in this proce point? If not, I will spend some money and get some professional SEO and rebuild from scratch. Again….thanks all.

    May 10th, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Jordan burt

    Try a company eDirectory.com ask for Matthew. They come set up for exactly what you want and you can pay a single license fee and use there templates and technology for all of your sites, but as the other knowledgable Domainers mentioned since Google changed the rules you will need to create or use plug-ins for content or just have them as good Geo Domain Keywords .Tel Directory and save some time and money. Regardless You will still have to go out and solicite the listings but it’s better than starting from scratch and you can use that model for any city and any niche business..

    Jordan Burt

    May 19th, 2013 at 4:31 am

    Andrew Jamieson

    Interesting Thread. I am currently building a directory site for massage therapists in South Africa. My approach from the beginning has been to make it a very content rich site. I “curate” the therapists that go on it and the all have their own pages with pictures, review, bio’s etc. I am however still quite concerned about whether people will just use google places instead to source a massage therapist. My thinking is that choosing a therapist is not merely a matter of convenience and that being able to pick and choose from a beautiful directory is something that really adds value. It is a lot of work though. Sites like https://www.airbnb.com/ for instance. Sure, you can search for B&B’s on google places but you will never get the amount of info you get on a listing like this.

    October 5th, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    JohnDoe

    So can we get an update on this? Did you end up selling any of these domains?

    January 22nd, 2014 at 7:10 pm

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