City in a Box Opportunity | DomainInvesting.com

City in a Box Opportunity

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I wanted to share an email I received from my friend Fred Mercaldo, one of the most respected geodomain developers whose company owns Scottsdale.com. Fred’s company introduced a new offering for other domain investors who own city/regional .com domain names. If I hadn’t developed Burbank.com and Lowell.com on my own already, I would not hesitate to turn to Fred and his expert team. If you have an undeveloped geodomain name – or if you have an underdeveloped geodomain name, you might consider reaching out to Fred about this opportunity.

Scottsdale.com has grown to include 4 additional geodomains in the Arizona market.  In building these sites, we have developed a platform and system that Becky and I realized could be used for other geodomains, and have now formally begun to market the software as “City In A Box”.

We are big believers that geodomains be developed and not parked, and there are still many cities and state names that could benefit from our services.  To see the actual site, visit www.mesa.com and www.sausalito.com.  The package includes a complete, ready to monetize website, with a comprehensive Content Management System, customizable Channel and Directory categories, fully functioning Event Calendar, Stories, Articles, Press releases; easy admin area for all banner ads; ability to have visitors create user accounts, stat tracking ability for all advertisers or anything listed on the site, so reports for advertisers are easy; blogs, and full Optimization Elements.

This is not a typical template system or mini site; this is the result of many years of trial and error in the building and marketing of Scottsdale.com, and if I had the ability to purchase this package years ago, I would have saved literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.  We are presently developing 4 other cities, and have the ability to build out 8-10 more this year.  The total price for everything is $12,500, and for a yearly fee of $2,500 we will provide all upgrades and updates in the future.

Additional information, including a spec sheet can be obtained from Fred@scottsdale.com or Becky@scottsdale.com.


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 (30)

    Mark Fulton

    A site could be developed with virtually the same functionality using WordPress and other open source software.

    Don’t get me wrong, Fred has accomplished creating an excellent community website. I bet alot of work went into the directory as well.

    Quick question… Is any content creation included (like populating the directory) or is it simply an out of the box solution?

    July 15th, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    David J Castello

    Fred and his company do great work. They’re presently developing our Manicure,com with a launch date of September 1st.

    July 15th, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    dcmike77

    I can’t imagine paying $12,000 for a package where the sample sites, mesa.com and sausalito.com don’t even appear on the first page of google. That’s seems absurd, Elliot.

    July 15th, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Elliot

    My initial site cost somewhere around $3k+/- without a CMS (off the top of my head). If you pay $250k for a city .com domain name, this would be effective and it makes you competitive right away.

    I know Fred just launched Mesa.com and Sausalito.com so it might take some time depending on whether Google sandboxed them. IMO, if you have the city .com and have a well-organized and good looking website, most advertisers don’t even care about Google. Only one person has even asked me about stats!

    I also know Scottsdale.com is doing very well and Fred is as experienced as it gets.

    I will add as a disclaimer, I was NOT compensated whatsoever for this post.

    July 15th, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    M. Menius

    Their sites are works of art, great looking finished product. A professional appearance says something to prospective buyers and customers. Elliot makes a good point in that if you spend considerable money for a good quality geodomain, why stop there with inferior development. The upfront $12,500 is not a minisite, it’s a first class development. And the yearly maintenance fee would likely pay for itself via advertising sales.

    The color combinations and graphics on their sites are superior to everything, anything I have seen on the net. Hands down. Giving credit where its due. The city in a box concept is appealing. I’d like to see their team perhaps offer a one tier down version of the $12,500 package. Or kind of an ala carte price structure that provides a good base site for $5000 with this option or that option available for additional fees.

    July 15th, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Fred Mercaldo

    Thank you all for the great support and kind words. Regarding our google rank on both Mesa and Sausalito…Elliot is correct, both are basically new and will take some time to be ranked.
    I also have a 3 page pdf file I will be happy to send to anyone interested, as this will answer many questions. Just email to me requesting further information. Our response has been excellent, and I am a tremendous advocate of fully developing city sites in cities of every size. Whether your goal is monetizing and keeping, or simply developing and selling, sites are worth much more professionally developed, and our package accomplishes this. Our success at Scottsdale.com is the result of 5 years of trial and error…everything we have learned so far is incorporated in this package.

    July 15th, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Alan

    $12,000 for a launch package that is exactly what you are looking for is pretty cheap and well worth the negative cost associated with trail and error.

    Those who don’t agree and have no idea how to develop – start developing and come back and comment in six months – you will agree then!

    ————————————–

    Elliot – you said

    “most advertisers don’t even care about Google. Only one person has even asked me about stats”

    ?? – sorry, makes no sense at all.

    Obviously your ad rates are too low imo. People ask about stats unless you have ads priced so low that they are essentially buying a link or presence and simply have a budget to spend. You can get lots of advertisers who buy these types of ads – the real money comes from people who care about stats imo – especially on geo sites.

    Lots of options for NATIONAL advertisers – why Burbank.com – because it looks cool and its the .com??

    I think its presumptious to think that by any (not saying you are) geo domain holder.

    The real money (national advertisers buying your premium spaces) will ask for stats — maybe I’m wrong but it just seems like a really odd statement.

    From a branding perspective its great for a local doctor to say “check our ad on burbank.com” but to the Coca-Cola’s of the world they dont care. They just want to know how many eyeballs will see it (many times regardless of conversion – just the eyeballs for branding)

    struck me as kinda odd – I would probably double check with David about your ad pricing and see where it stands relative to industry rates.

    July 16th, 2009 at 2:17 am

    theoretical

    Not to be overly critical, but why not have real estate listings, job listings or any type of classified listing? Is that from your experience or is it just not implemented? Thanks.

    July 16th, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Elliot

    @Alan,

    As I said before, most inquiries I receive are directly from advertisers who either find my site via Google or type-in traffic. They see its a comprehensive site and want to be a part of it. I generally mention the traffic within the course of my sales pitch because I am proud of it. However, none of the companies I’ve communicated with seem to care because they aren’t asking for actual analytics, which IMO is more important than stats.

    Aside from affiliate deals, I can’t think of very many national advertisers who bother working with smaller websites that aren’t pulling in millions of pageviews. They would spend a lot of time and effort dealing with hundreds or thousands of webmasters to get the same traffic looking at their banners as they would by working with just a few of the biggest webmasters. I really don’t see the Coca Colas of the world advertising directly on small local websites. Can you give me examples of large companies doing direct deals with advertisers?

    I agree that my rates may be too low, but I am not spending a lot of time on sales and this is not my primary source of income. David’s advice has helped me with my pricing. David’s advice has actually helped with with much of what I’ve done on the website :)

    July 16th, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Jim Holleran

    Little bit off top but is there any proof that .com always get’s higher ranking than other’s such as .net, .org, .info, .tv, etc if all things being equal.

    Also, where can I find out how much direct type-in traffic a name like Mesa.com or Burbank.com get’s?

    Those 2 points above determines whether I should spend a good amount of $$$ on .com.

    Thanks, Jim

    July 16th, 2009 at 9:49 am

    theoretical

    Elliot, I’m confused. Are you just holding your Geo’s then for an investment to resell or are you actually planning to invest in it yourself at some point?

    I think your point about national advertisers if very valid for small geo domain portfolio holders (even if they have big market geo domains), which is why we are going for a very large holding of geo domains, but a different extension. That should allow us not only the coverage but the traffic figures that will bring large advertisers to the table that the .com guys who only have a handful of sites have trouble reaching. It’s not that .com isn’t the best extension – but as long as the price to entry is so high, there’s very little consolidation that can occur with that extension where as folks like Bruce Marler can reach half the US using the .Me extension.

    That said, Associated Cities *should* be the organization that brings big advertisers to the table for the little guys but that doesn’t seem to be happening much from what I’ve observed from the outside looking in.

    July 16th, 2009 at 9:50 am

      Elliot

      @theoretical

      At this point, I am focused on building the traffic and local recognition on my own by doing media/event sponsorships and promoting organizations in the respective cities so people continue to learn about each site. I have invested thousands of dollars in development costs and tens of thousands of dollars worth of my time and effort into growing them (I spend about 10-15/hours a week on them now), but I am not ready to invest the money it would take to build a better CMS, hire 3-4 journalists, a general manager, photographers…etc. I figure it will take a 6 figure investment to do that for each site, and I am not ready at this juncture because I don’t need to take that big of a risk right now.

      When advertisers contact me, I attempt to sell them ad space, but I am not giving away the shop. The main issue I have right now is that it is easier for me to sell a domain name for $5,000 when I paid $4,000 (hypothetically) for a $1k profit than to convince a local advertiser to buy $1k worth of space. I am still earning most of my revenue in the domain biz, and I can only do so much on my own. I am building my geodomain names in a way that I can scale when I am ready. Perhaps it will come after a major domain sale or when the economy begins to turn and I am more comfortable spending the money it will take to bring on staff.

      I can’t comment on Bruce’s strategy because I don’t know enough about what value proposition he plans to give advertisers.

      IMO, even if you own every single city or state domain name in a random extension, national advertisers won’t care unless you have huge traffic stats and are bringing them millions of eyeballs. You need fresh, unique and interesting local content to get national advertisers, and that is very expensive.

      Local advertisers (IMO) are less interested in the stats and more interested in being on the local .com website as long as they know they are reaching their target audience. Mind you I don’t have the experience yet to say I am an expert by any stretch, but I know what David Castello would say about developing a non-.com and getting advertisers.

      July 16th, 2009 at 10:08 am

    theoretical

    Jim: great question. .Com and .Org I think seem to have the highest advantage in search engines and type ins in the US. Largely though I think this is because those have the highest number of developed sites. As other extensions are “built out”, that monopoly (or duopoly) will shift. A lot of the “marketing” of .com has come from folks who have a large .com portfolio and say things like “40% of our visitors are type ins”, but I have a number of sites with other extensions that have that kind of type in traffic because they are return visitors who type the first couple of letters in the address bar and the browser fills in the rest (including the non .com extension). So .com has weight with engines and with marketing dollars spent promoting .com… they’ve got a large mind share in the US and a good percentage of marketshare worldwide… but a relevant use of an extension like what we are doing can be very powerful too. Content is the deciding factor at that point.

    Note: I would not invest in geo .net domains though as the “brand” of .net is not highly regarded and there is very little in the way of relevance that you can find for geo domains. Exact match TV, ccTLDs like US and our own (.IN) are better investments IMO. I also don’t like the XXXCity.com where XXX is “Go” or “Visit” or “Discover” as those brands are much more difficult to market properly and they’ll never be very “liquid” as far as assets go.

    Just my two or three cents.

    July 16th, 2009 at 10:06 am

    theoretical

    Thanks for the insight there Elliot. Much appreciated. If you are curious about stats, I would recommend Compete as the best stat tracking site, but take the numbers with a grain of salt… in some cases, a big grain of salt.
    Here’s the comparison of mesa.com to the top two search results for “mesa az”

    http://siteanalytics.compete.com/mesa.com+mesaaz.gov+visitmesa.com/

    July 16th, 2009 at 10:16 am

      Elliot

      @theoretical

      I use Google Analytics for my stats as they have an inside view.

      BTW, Mesa.com just launched, so I wouldn’t expect them to be competitive yet.

      July 16th, 2009 at 10:19 am

    theoretical

    Point taken, but not all of us have your Google Analytics stats to compare and analyze :)
    One reason why I think it’s relevant to use mesa.com to analyze the “power of .com” is that it has just launched. To see how strong the .com brand is, it’s important to see it’s stats regardless of search engine rankings, back links, etc.

    July 16th, 2009 at 10:24 am

      Elliot

      @theoretical

      Ultimately content will be king and as articles and listings get indexed and ranked better, it will be much easier to compete with the sites that have 10+ years of articles and information.

      July 16th, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Jim Holleran

    It’s all about ROI, not about branding, getting the .com, etc.
    (Note: 90% of my names are .com including some strong geo .com)

    Numbers don’t lie. If Bruce Marler get’s a better ROI on a .me than somebody who got the .com version of the same name than it’s a better investment. ROI that is it, everything else is just “noise, hype, BS”

    Thanks, Jim

    July 16th, 2009 at 11:06 am

      Elliot

      @Jim

      That’s very true. You need to calculate ROI in terms of acquisition costs + labor and overhead as well.

      The other thing to consider is the burn down value. If you need to sell, it’s good to know that there are plenty of buyers for city/state .com domain names. I don’t know how easy it is to sell other extensions.

      July 16th, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Steve K.

    Great Topic.

    Question, I own AllenPark.com a city in Michigan, do i spend 12k for a city that has about 30,000 population? how do we know what city to develop? I also own Adel.com and that is city in Iowa but only has about 4000 people, obviously wont spend 12k to develop that city. so my question is what should the population be in order to justify spending 12k.

    thanks
    Steve

    July 16th, 2009 at 1:35 pm

      Elliot

      @Steve

      I wouldn’t spend the money on that name. There are a whole lot of variables to consider… Richard Douglas has a great analysis about how to choose the right name to develop: http://toomanysecrets.com/choose-domains-development/

      IMO, if you have the money but not the time/knowledge/desire to develop on your own and build a site using trial by error, Fred has a great product. The average domain investor won’t spend $12k but the average domain investor doesn’t have a $100k+ city/state/region .com domain name lying around his portfolio undeveloped.

      July 16th, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Alan

    Steve K.

    You asked “so my question is what should the population be in order to justify spending 12k.”

    There is no answer to this question – not one you will find here. The answer to how much you spend is based on your business plan.

    ————————

    Elliot,

    There are many many examples of NATIONAL advertisers who make direct ad buys. Remember, Adwords and affiliate programs are simply platforms where advertisers go for an easy way to reach content providers they may not know. Take movie studios for example – its all about branding, their ROI will never be determined by conversion rates except for the box office receipts and these people have money to burn however its all about eyeballs with them. To say they never ask about traffic is very misleading – they do their research on traffic before they buy.

    If you are selling ads for $500 a pop then the value of that particular ad presence can many times be discounted simply because of the price. Basic marketing 101 in some respect. Charge someone $500 for an ad that another advertiser with the same type of presence charges $10,000 for and you can have the best site in the world – almost too cheap to take serious.

    Take BlogAds.com for example. Sure – a NATIONAL advertiser may not call every person direct but you set your own price and with targeted traffic such as Burbank.com advertisers will find you and pay at some point. Hard to imagine people who specialize in placing media buys will just opt in with any serious money and not look for traffic numbers. You are right that local advertisers don’t care about traffic so much – why, because there is a benefit behind the exposure of saying they are on the geo.com for the city but for national advertisers its all about eyeballs.

    Agree to disagree on this.

    July 16th, 2009 at 2:05 pm

      Elliot

      @Alan

      Fair enough. I haven’t done much of an analysis on ways to get advertisers. I have too many things going on right now. I should focus on this, but I haven’t.

      July 16th, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Fred Mercaldo

    Steve K: I believe monetizing potential is the determining factor, combined with what you are trying to accomplish financially with your city.com sites, in deciding how to develop. We do things a little different at Scottsdale.com…we have chosen one group of real estate agents to work with, rather than having 10 agents advertise. The reason is that I get enough leads to make a huge difference in the lives of our real estate “partner”, but not enough to keep 10 different agencies with 10 different expectation levels happy, and don’t want a revolving door of dropped advertisers so then I have to find new ones. Most agents develop their own websites and get no traffic; the city.com sites are perfect for a real estate “partner”, and the statistics of how many people do research on the web prior to buying is incredible. In the event you pursued a real estate partner for your sites…even a small town will have an agent that will pay $400 per month to be the exclusive real estate presence….that’s $4800 per year in real estate income alone…assume you are able to get another $300 per month from every other category…thats $8400 per year…does that justify paying $12,500 for development in a small market? Yes…in my view it does. Now you have a city.com that you can build upon, and it is also most likely worth anywhere from 2-5 times what it was originally worth undeveloped…so in summary, yes I believe one can justify the expense easily.
    To: “theoretical”…we are heavy in real estate, its just that for both sites we have not added the unique content provided by our real estate partners with our guidance yet. Classifieds and job listings we have yet to do.
    Everyone…very interesting stat…close to 50% of our monthly uniques come from direct type in traffic for Scottsdale.com!

    July 16th, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    M. Menius

    Fred – The real estate listings which are displayed on Scottsdale.com are originated through the Arizona MLS. Would you mind commenting on the process for establishing the MLS relationship such that permission is provided to Scottsdale.com to search & list mls properties?

    I’m thinking this is likely tied in with the single Realtor/Realty Firm you are using. Something like an IDX affiliation using his AZ broker status?

    Thanks in advance for any clarification you might provide.

    July 16th, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Too Many Secrets

    @Steve K.

    There is not very much search traffic for Allen Park, MI.

    Without traffic, advertisers will not pay you. The demographics are bad too, I am afraid.

    :-)

    – Richard

    July 17th, 2009 at 6:54 am

    Steve K.

    @ Richard

    Thanks for the input. This is how I looked at it. For the term allen park we get about 1.5 million searches on google. to me that seems ok, I also did a little research and came a cross focusallenpark.com which happens to be on 1st page maybe 3r down from the top on google. when visiting focusallenpark.com i noticed that they have lots and lots of advertisers. i was thinking since everything is about allen park and i own allenpark.com then pehaps within good time and good seo i can be up there on google and get those advertisers that focusallenpark.com has. My thinking might be wrong, you also mentioned the demographics are bad too, explain so i can understand.
    I appreciate your input.

    Steve

    July 17th, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Fred Mercaldo

    Couple of things…to M. Menius…you are correct that the deal must be made between the MLS and either an licensed agent or broker. There are numerous programs out there, with various levels of sophistication and service and costs. We like the ability to edit what the customer sees on the screen; we prefer to have customers call our exclusive agents for a showing, rather than to have them call the listing agent…
    And to Richard and Steve K…I don’t put alot of faith in existing search traffic because there are many other factors. If the city is not a destination, then the play is simply local…and until the residents know you exist, there is no reason to go there or type in the search terms. Without spending money, you can do numerous magazine trades that will get your name out there, etc. Richard is correct in stating that you need traffic, however you can build traffic. I do however put alot of faith in Richards last comment regarding demographics….I rank that issue higher than existing traffic. You can change traffic…not much you can do about the demographics!!!

    July 17th, 2009 at 3:11 pm

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