How I am Using the Castello Brothers Tips | DomainInvesting.com

How I am Using the Castello Brothers Tips

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As I’ve said numerous times, David & Michael Castello are two of my mentors (whether they know it or not!), and I have received great  advice from them as I have developed my geo websites – at conferences, over the phone, via email, at dinner, and over cigars and ice wine at The Breakers…etc.

Every time I am with David and/or Michael, I learn something new, and I try to adapt their advice into what I am doing, usually with Burbank.com and Lowell.com. I’d like to share how I have used some of the tips and strategies the Castello Brothers were kind enough to share on my blog on Tuesday with my two geodomains.  If you have questions, please ask because I am happy to share.  Much of their tips and what I have done can be adopted and used for non-geodomains.

(I recommend opening another tab or window to follow along – I didn’t want to paraphrase or re-post from Tuesday – sorry.)

1) I enjoy traveling and I enjoy history, so geo domains were what I wanted.   I grew up 30 minutes north of Lowell, and the city has a rich history.  Burbank was more of a lucky buy (right time/right offer) and I love southern California.

2) Easy, although expensive.  With all of the time and effort I put into building Burbank.com and Lowell.com, I wasn’t going to do this on anything but the authoritative domain name.  Sure, I could have done it on .net or .org, but it would have only increased the value of the .com down the road.  Also, it would have been more difficult to introduce myself as the owner of the .net or .org because consumers seem them as being less valuable and secondary.

3) When I set out, I decided I wanted to be more than just an info hub.  I wanted my sites to become the place for people to get city information.  That meant building many more pages, adding more features (such as reservation capabilities and a calendar), and building a business directory.  Essentially, I built these sites for people who need any type of info about these cities.  If I don’t have it or can’t provide the info, I have phone numbers, email addresses, and websites of organizations or people who can provide the info.  I also was picky about the design, navigation, and look/feel.  I wanted these sites to be THE brands for the area.

4) I probably write 2-3 pages per day and add several event listings.  I signed up for nearly all local organizations’ newsletters, I get Google alerts for a variety of terms and keywords, and when I get new information, I post it. I also contacted UMass Lowell, and they send me the same sports articles they send to every major newspaper, so the site stays fresh and updated.  New and important posts are added to the home page under “News” and I update the sitemap every day.  This is good for search engine placement, good for visitors, and it drives traffic.

5) I have the advantage of owning the authority domain name, so people already trust what is posted.  Based on keyword searches and other research, I have information about just about everything people want to find in each of these cities.  I also continue to update the pages with relevant news articles.  For example, the Lowell Spinners announced a Fantasy Kids’ Camp, and you can see how I integrated it on the Lowell Spinners page.  Another neat thing I just began to do is interview well known people in the city of Lowell. I will continue to do this, and I plan to add this feature to Burbank.com very soon.  This will help drive traffic to the site and hopefully lead to link backs on the organizations’ press websites.

6) I had Adsense up when I first started out with Lowell.com.  I thought, “shoot, I might as well make a few $$ a day.”  DUMB DUMB DUMB!!  Not only is it asking people to leave my site, but they won’t even remember they visited it!  I would rather be a source of information, and as I grow, I will be able to increase the technology to provide better services for visitors.  I use WC Travel for the hotels in Burbank, so visitors can easily make a reservation, and it looks like my site.  Everything from the site design to the confirmation email to the credit card bill says “Burbank.com.”  Ideally, I will have the capability to make reservations without an affiliate, coupons for local businesses, and other things to build brand strength and make it more sticky.

I also don’t think Adsense really looks good, although I use it on other less developed sites.  Adsense is a very short term and short sighted option.  For websites with longterm potential, I think it’s best to forgo Adsense.

7) I have an events calendar, and I LOVE when I receive event submissions from local organizations and people.  It’s a bit of a pain to keep it updated, but I know it’s used A LOT.  This is a reason people visit the sites, and even if it’s the only reason they come back, I am okay with that.  I don’t have a forum because if people don’t post, it could look stale, and I don’t want to moderate a forum and deal with disputes.  I also built my own feeds and added them to my RSS reader (iGoogle) so Google adds my articles more rapidly.

8.) This is my most difficult obstacle.  I get a considerable amount of submissions from people who want complimentary listings, but it’s tough for me to sell via email or over the phone.  I will say that having THE BRAND makes it much easier, and it is easier to get in touch with decision makers when I call and say it’s Burbank.com or Lowell.com.  David Castello is one of the most charasmatic people in our industry.  David is the master.

9) BIG problem for me.  I live in Manhattan.  Burbank is a 6 hour flight and Lowell is a 3.5 hour drive.  I just had a media kit put together, and as soon as I can, I will be spending several days in Lowell going door to door.  Burbank is next in April. I wish I could hire David for this… or his team :-)

10) I spend 5+ hours a day writing content, researching articles, and finding news stories for Burbank.com and Lowell.com.  You have to be passionate about your project.  I probably like Burbank and Lowell as much or more than most people who live there.  I feel like I am the number one fan, and I am the biggest promoter.  I am like the Chamber of Commerce.  I speak with the local organizations, I happily promote their events, I am the “happy news.”

The local news has to report the violence, crime, and crappy stuff that happens.  I don’t.  I can talk about the good stuff.


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 (31)

    David J Castello

    Thank you for the kind words, Elliot. I really like the clean look of your local directory, but #7 is your sleeping giant. One of the biggest marketing breakthroughs we had on Nashville.com was when we accidentally put the wrong info for an event for the Country Music Hall of Fame on the Nashville.com Calendar of Events. The CMHF called to tell us they were literally “swamped with calls” with the wrong info. Everyone in Nashville knows the CMHF and word about Nashville.com’s power spread fast. Now we’re on everyone’s PR list and yesterday one of those PR firms called to advertise an event on Nashville.com’s front page. It all comes down to branding and you’re on the right track.

    February 18th, 2009 at 7:50 pm

      Elliot Silver

      @David

      Likewise, the most emails I get are from people correcting their Yellow Pages listings… or asking to be added.

      February 18th, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Greg

    Instead of spending several days at a time in your cities going door to door, spend that time networking and interviewing candidates to sell your advertising locally.

    Just as you’re using the affiliate model for your travel monetization, you can do the same thing offline to sell your advertising.

    Go to some chamber meetings and networking groups while you’re there, and you’ll find even more sharp people looking for such an opportunity.

    Charge for your advertising on a monthly basis with a yearly contract, and pay the local rep their affiliate commission percentage as the money is collected, with retention bonuses to incentivize renewals and upgrades.

    You may collect a lower percentage of the gross revenue than if you sold the advertising yourself, but with several sharp salespeople on the ground locally, that won’t be a consideration because of the increased volume of sales, and higher per customer revenue because of the local relationships your reps have or can establish.

    February 18th, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    belshass

    I’m onto a similar project too Elliot.

    Still in development and a lot to do still!
    might shoot you an email if I need your POV.
    If you don’t mind.

    Cheers,

    Ritz

    February 18th, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Too Many Secrets

    @Greg

    That’s great advice and it works very well.

    – Richard

    February 18th, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    M. Menius

    “Go to some chamber meetings and networking groups while you’re there, and you’ll find even more sharp people looking for such an opportunity.”

    This sounds like a worthwhile investment of a couple of hours –> “Hi, I’m Elliot Silver, and I own your city (figuratively speaking, ;-). I wanted to meet local business owners here, introduce myself, and invite you to participate in the future of Lowell.com, Burbank.com.” Seriously, the cachet of owning the city in .com will impress and attract. If not immediately, definitely within several weeks as people word-of-mouth that they met the young entrepreneur who owns the city.com. That’s a newsworthy event on any local scene. Seeing you face to face and putting a real face and real person behind your city domain will lead to some early successes in my opinion. It’s very personal and reassuring as opposed to telephone cold call.

    When David sold PalmSprings.com advertising, the net was still a little new, and unproven back then. I would think general acceptance and trust have probably only increased over the years for a city.com domain.

    “… with several sharp salespeople on the ground locally, that won’t be a consideration because of the increased volume of sales, and higher per customer revenue because of the local relationships your reps have or can establish.”

    I was going to mention this though I have no personal experience with it. With Elliot being some distance away, it makes sense he utilize a “local”, well-known with good sales approach, and to split revenues with that rep. I think Skip Hoagland does something similar. Obviously unable to work the rounds solo, I would think the numbers on paper might come out quite in Elliot’s favor with a one or two person sales force selling ads locally (even on a strict commission/split). Burbank has a level of notoriety and affluence that suggests to me certain higher-end local companies would experiement with shifting ad budget dollars to burbank.com. And from there, the real growth curve could begin.

    February 18th, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    BF

    Elliot:

    I must say both sites look and feel great. I especially like the logos.

    Castello’s post, and now yours, have made me realize the ‘idea’ behind Google AdSense is flawed, on a publisher’s point of view. Who knows how long others will catch on to this, but I can honestly say I will certainly use it less and less now. I do see that some sites have Google AdSense that open in a new window though. I guess that is available only for big traffic sites?!

    I see you use the ‘claim this listing’ approach for the business directories. Is that the same ‘upgrade’ approach the Castello Brothers talked about? Any comments on your monetization strategies, what works best, and what doesn’t for the sites; would be very interesting to hear about. How your affiliate setups are doing, direct advertising, etc…

    Thanks,
    BF.

    February 18th, 2009 at 11:23 pm

      Elliot Silver

      @Bruno,

      I don’t believe David & Michael employ a complimentary directory on most of their geo sites as I do. I needed to do that because their brands are stronger for the most part, and they were established long ago. I needed the data for SEO and to add value to visitors who probably had other local sites that they used frequently.

      My hotel affiliate is doing well, but I think it would be better to work directly with the hotels. I had a $2,000+ hotel reservation a couple weeks ago :)

      February 18th, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    James

    Great tips – Thanks Elliot – especially the WC travel – just what i was looking for. Do you know if there are sites that do similar things to them outside the travel field – i.e products, software, electronics – which allows you to customise the ads to look and feel as if they are your sites offering

    February 19th, 2009 at 2:51 am

    Phil

    I see that you have Escort Service category in the Lowell directory, but nobody has posted an ad. If you actively marketed adult listings I imagine that these would be the easiest customers to convert – even over the phone.

    If that pans out to be the case, you could add “Adult Lowell” as a front page category, and have an 18 or over splash page followed by a separate adult directory.

    Although Yellow Pages, local papers and hotel lobby brochures are packed with adult listings it is not something I have seen on high quality geos such as yours and the Castellos. Is there a reason for this? Is it because it would offend some visitors/advertisers?

    February 19th, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Elliot Silver

    @Phil

    I don’t have a whole lot of advertisers yet, but I wouldn’t start with that particular category. IMO, it would probably offend too many people to be worth it, and at this point, I would rather have repeat visitors than revenue.

    February 19th, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Phil

    Another more savory idea could be to run a writing competition for high schools to write about the local area.

    It would connect you to the community and generate content – the content would be low quality, but you could keep it all to the writing competition area of the site, and have the page template set up to drive traffic to other areas of the site.

    Again, I have never seen this done so there are probably some good reasons why!

    February 19th, 2009 at 10:37 am

      Elliot Silver

      @Phil

      A great idea. The plan is to continue building the site and then approaching the local high school newspapers to add a blog on my site for them to report. Initially, it would primarily be focused on athletics and sports scores, but it could evolve. I want to make more of an impact on the community first, although this idea would be great for some established sites.

      February 19th, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Phil

    I see with Lowell.com that you don’t have a first page SERP. In line with the community approach, perhaps it would help to:

    Have a section on charities active in the area and maybe set up a donation page for each. Encourage the charities (that will have high link juice) to link to that donation page on your site.

    For the school listings, instead of linking out to them, link to a profile page on your site with photos etc., in return for them putting a link on their site “as listed in Lowell.com”. You could tell the schools that they can update their page on your site with fundraising and other activities at the time you request the link. Again the schools would have high link juice.

    So targeting these two type of links could build community and accelerate the SERP.

    February 19th, 2009 at 10:55 am

      Elliot Silver

      @ Phil – it’s been an uphill battle with Lowell.com.

      February 19th, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Michael Neu

    I can’t tell you how valuable all of these geo discussions have been as we are about to embark on many of these ideas with our site.

    I’m heading out to Lahaina on Sunday (which should be when our new site goes live) for two weeks and have really gotten some good ideas with the last few geo posts.

    One other thing that we were looking into is interviewing famous Maui citizens. Usually people will take the time out of their busy careers to discuss their home, and help out local businesses they grew up around. We figure these article/interviews have a good chance of creating some buzz for the site.

    Im sure ill have more to add over the next few weeks with what does and doesnt work for us, as we are in a similar position to you Elliot, being that we dont live where our geodomain is currently, but are passionate about it.

    February 19th, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    David J Castello

    Great idea, Michael:
    “One other thing that we were looking into is interviewing famous Maui citizens. Usually people will take the time out of their busy careers to discuss their home, and help out local businesses they grew up around.”

    February 19th, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    The "G." Man

    I think of them as the same as you Elliot. I’ve only had the pleasure of meeting them once and got into a real deep discusion with Michael. I must of impressed him, becuase we have been in contact since and he has been very helpful. I don’t know his brother as well, but think of them in the same regards. They are very humble and willing to be of assistance. I encourage everyone to spend some time with them if they can. Just my advice.

    Sincerely,
    The “G.” Man
    NexMillenia.com
    “An Internet Pioneer & Digital Media Firm for the NexMillenia!”

    February 19th, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    BF

    Elliot:

    Regarding #7, the events calendar. If you haven’t seen this site before, it may be worth checking it out. They provide local events based on geography, and have an API that allow the services to connect to your site from the backend for customizations: http://www.eventful.com

    February 19th, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Steve M

    Elliot,

    I hope you never have an adult section for your sites; or accept money from such entities.

    In addition to the “earthly” matter of scaring off perhaps 70% or more of your potential visitors (and non-adult advertisers), we all have to answer to a higher power who expects–rightly so–more from us (whether we like it or not).

    There’s certainly no lack of smut on the Internet, and geo sites looking to serve the communities for which they’re so well suited for shouldn’t contribute to industry.

    February 21st, 2009 at 10:43 pm

      Elliot Silver

      @Steve – I am not looking forward to the first time that becomes an issue :)

      February 21st, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    Jim Holleran

    Elliot,

    Who did the development of your Burbank.com site?

    Thanks, Jim

    March 3rd, 2009 at 12:47 pm

      Elliot Silver

      @Jim

      It was designed by Mike McAlister of Six One Five Design.

      March 3rd, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Phil

    I have noticed that the best GEOs do not build email lists.

    Is it because the above the fold space is considered too valuable to use for an email opt-in? I don’t consider it so.

    You could offer a free guide to Burbank as an incentive to subscribe to the email newsletter. The email newsletter could just be a monthly update on changes to the site and upcoming events.

    Once you have build the list to a few thousand Burbankites you are sitting on an incredible marketing machine to promote specific events, and could charge for promoting events to your list.

    In this podcast Perry Marshall talks about the value of his email list:

    http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/1048/perry-marshall-interview/

    Why are don’t GEO domains build emails lists? Are there any good examples of those that do?

    March 4th, 2009 at 6:06 am

      Elliot Silver

      @ Phil – Look at block #7 on the home page of burbank.com, and the 4th link from the bottom on the left. Many geodomains have newsletters.

      March 4th, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Phil

    Thanks Elliot, sorry I had missed those links. Do you think that having it above the fold on the right would be inappropriate for a GEO site, and that sort of prominence is better for a business/site where the newsletter is the main focus?

    I have subscribed to your Burbank newsletter to get an idea on the type of content that is featured.

    March 4th, 2009 at 9:04 am

      Elliot Silver

      @Phil – If I had more regularly produced content, it would be a better idea, but I don’t really have enough to make it worthwhile. I don’t want to heavily promote something (via prominent real estate) if I can;t produce a quality product yet. That should change though down the road.

      March 4th, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Michael Castello

    We send out a visitor’s guide instead of a newsletter. We were surprised that see 50 requests a day from Nashville.com (50 x 365 = 18,250). We originally placed a request form to show the CVB the kind of draw that our site had. They wanted our lists for free!?! So we decided to produce a simple guide from some of our own content.

    If these local agencies that take tax dollars do not want to spend “pennies” promoting their city tourism then we as geo-owners are obliged to do it ourselves. It is their loss.

    I wonder how upset politically these local businesses would be knowing how foolish, arrogant and out of the loop these agencies are being. Time, efficiency and expediency are on our side.

    March 7th, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Paddy

    Hi Elliot,

    Are you using a CMS such as Joomla for your Burbank.com website or are you using plain html? For example, when you say you are adding pages to your website are you creating a new html page or adding content through a CMS backend?

    P,S. Great websits. I have just purchased CannesHolidays[dot]com and am in two minds whether to develop it into a content website or just sell it. Seeing Burbank.com developed kind of makes me want to develop it!

    Thanks.

    August 1st, 2009 at 3:59 pm

      Elliot

      @ Paddy

      Thanks for the compliment. I don’t use a CMS although I sometimes wish I did.

      August 1st, 2009 at 4:30 pm

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