Moving Forward with DogWalker.com | DomainInvesting.com

Moving Forward with DogWalker.com

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I appreciate all the comments I received on the post I wrote about the launch of DogWalker.com. I want to discuss a couple of things brought up in the post and in threads from a couple of domain forums. Whether I am going about it right or wrong will impact my business, but hopefully you can get ideas for your next project to save you some time on testing.

I think Mike McAlister did a fantastic job with the design of the site. I made some suggestions at the beginning of the project and showed him a few directory sites that I liked, and I think he hit a home run with it. I agree to some extent that the design comes second to the content and ease of use, but I don’t agree that people can compare small niche sites to huge sites like Craigslist and Google which have less design elements.

In my opinion, when a new site is launched, it needs to catch attention, and one way to do that is design – especially when the content is lacking for the time being. Most of the successful minimalist websites have very unique offerings and are first to market with their offering, helping to build their brand. With DogWalker.com, I don’t have anything right now but the design. I have created a venue on an intuitive brand, but aside from that, I have little. However, the great design will hopefully enable me to get people interested.

Over the next few days, I plan to offer free annual dog walker listings to select dog walkers from across the country. I want dog owners to find walkers when they look, and I want to trim down the ramp up time. Since this is part time, I don’t want to have to chase people down in a year to pay, so I am not going to give everyone a free year. Additionally, I don’t want to have to monitor for spam posts any more than I need to, and if it’s free, I will have to be extra cautious. The plan is to call about 20-30 dog walkers from around the country and personally offer them free listings, since emails can be easily deleted or spammed.

I want to thank Andrew Hazen for his SEO consulting and advice. There are some things I already implemented and a few other things are in the works. I plan to reach out first to local pet stores in my area to discuss magnet handouts, banner ads, and links back. In addition to the rotating affiliate banners on the top of my site, I also think I could offer banners on some pages of the site for local pet stores. That will probably be phase 2, and it will probably require a change from WordPress to another directory.

That brings me to the question about why I chose WordPress over Joomla. The primary reason is that I am most comfortable with using WordPress. I know there are ways to migrate the site to Joomla or another content management system if necessary, and although it can be pricey, I will be able to justify the expense once I’ve outgrown WordPress.

The limitations I currently have are few, but they could prove to be key:

  • Can’t offer coupons or discount codes
  • Can’t do Paypal subscriptions
  • Listings won’t automatically renew after a year – I will have to manually re-boot
  • Search functionality is a work in progress

The search issue has been tougher than I had hoped. Mike did a ton of customizations, and that caused a couple of search issues we’re trying to work through. For example, you can search for “Manchester” and get 3 listings, you can search for “New Hampshire” and get 3 listings, but when you search for “Manchester, New Hampshire,” you get no listings. One friend suggested that the search was looking for the whole term in each search field. Any suggestions on fixing this problem would be appreciated!

I outlined my revenue generation and marketing strategy previously, but the plan is to make this basically self-sustaining. I don’t need thousands or even hundreds of sign-ups to break even, and even if I don’t get to break even, there is still burn down value for this name. In fact, the owner apparently almost let this drop a couple years ago, and bidding was pretty strong on Godaddy (according to one bidder). Alas, the owner renewed the domain name and I was able buy it from him two years later.

Again, thank you for the comments, compliments, and even the criticism. I hope it’s helpful to you in all of your endeavors.

Tomorrow, I will have some development tips and ideas for you to consider.


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 (25)

    Gazzip

    Design is VERY important. If I come accross a website that looks like it was build by a total amature I rarely stick around for more than 20 seconds, It takes a certain amount of trust before people would submit ther personal details to join, never mind input any form of payment details.

    First impressions count far more on the internet IMO

    Coming from someone who is very fussy I think you have a very nice clean looking design ! :) You nailed it !

    November 22nd, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Suneedh

    Great post ! I am hoping to launch a pet related site myself and now after reading this post I know what all things I need to take special care of . Thanks !

    Looking forward to your post regarding the development tips :)

    November 22nd, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    ron

    As far as searching goes, I have 10 directory sites and use only zipcodes. Right or wrong, the visitor types in their zipcode and the results are posted from a database. No problems.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    mitch

    I was just going to post that I would use zip codes… but I see ron already has. Anyways, is there a reason not to use zip codes… both for listing and searching?

    It’s a good looking site.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    whoknows

    The design is what matters for the first few split seconds to a few seconds when a person visits a website. After that it comes down to content and user ability.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    PoopTax

    Don’t forget to include poop tax law on your blog.

    Dog owners need to be responsible to pick the poops

    November 22nd, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Eric

    If you love your first design and don’t find things wrong with it, you spent too much time and money on it.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Elliot

    @ Eric

    That’s one of the dumbest things about web development I’ve heard.

    Good design isn’t necessarily much more expensive than something average. I also would rather pay a bit more and have a leg up than start off at a disadvantage.

    Its not like paying $350 for a basic functional site vs. $5,000 for what I have. Mine was south of $2,000 all in and I think it looks great and once the search bug is fixed, it will work well too.

    BTW, you can search via city and/or zip. Once the directory is more populated, it will be more obvious.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Viqi

    Your Search issue depends on how your database is structured (primary, secondary keys) and the actual SQL statement (SELECT statement structure) you run to get the results. If you could post that info, I might be able to help.

    One question, the “Popular Searches” area, is that hard coded or is it dynamically displayed and are actual popular searches on your website? Seems like they are hard coded at the moment.

    Couple of things I noticed:

    1. When I search for a city, and the search does not return any results, the message displayed is: There were no dog walkers found in your search area, please search again.
    Now if there are no dog walkers listed in my city, I don’t think I will be searching again for another city. The message should be something along the lines that at the moment there are no dog walkers available in your “cityName”, please check back soon as we update our listings etc etc.

    2. There is a link at the bottom “Search by State”. That link should be available on the main search area as an option, IMO. However, when used, and selecting a city does not return a result, same generic message is displayed, and when “search again” is clicked, it takes you back to the main search page, rather than the state page, with city list, that was selected. The search should be a bit intelligent and know where the user came from.
    I guess state search is not that much used, so the above comments might not matter.

    Sorry for nip tucking, but this is what I observed. Otherwise the website design and useability is excellent. Wish you all the best.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Elliot

    @ Viqi
    I am not familiar with programming at all, so what you are saying probably makes sense but not really to me on the technical side. I will pass the info on to my designer though. I probably need a WP programming expert to look under the hood.

    The reason for the message is because if someone searches by zip or neighborhood, there may be no walkers listed, but a neighboring zip could have them. I thinK WP limitations will prevent me from going more in depth though – ie, saying “there are X dog walkers within 5 miles.”

    The popular searches are hardcoded to pages I set up for SEO, which have links to the results pages.

    State searches are really for SEO because I have all the large city links on each page.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Mitch

    @ Elliot
    “….a leg up” lol
    I think that’s the first time I’ve seen you use that term.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    Elliot

    @ Mitch

    LOL :)

    No pun intended.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Dluzional

    * Can’t offer coupons or discount codes
    * Can’t do Paypal subscriptions
    * Listings won’t automatically renew after a year – I will have to manually re-boot
    * Search functionality is a work in progress

    If you’re using your own coder, I’m surprised, that he’s not able to make a custom coupon for you strategically placed, …he should be able to do it with a 125×125 box, or micro banner listing, it’s the back end part that would be the tough part.

    there is a variety of customizable plugin’s for the wordpress family that may work for you with some tweaking,.

    The links I’ve included here, are specific to what you’re seeking, so either you or your coder have a peek at these and see if something can’t be done or at least adapted.

    code.google.com/p/wordpress-coupon-maker/

    http://wordpress.org/support/topic/303272

    The search engine thing, ..instead of dicking around with the ever so dull wordpress search function, why not use a google custom search for the blog, Harness the power of the search engine that could…and possibly monetize it too….it can be created here.

    http://www.google.com/cse/?v

    Even if these don’t help you, or your coder, let me know, as I have a guy(geez don’t we all have a guy LOL) that specifically does wordpress, and he says, if he can’t do it in wordpress, then it can’t be done….

    I’ll email you his address offsite, or send me an email where you want the address sent.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Kevin

    I still think since you’re just launching you, and can still do it easily, you should put it on a directory software system and not wordpress.

    November 23rd, 2009 at 1:16 am

    Elliot

    @ Kevin

    How much would that cost and what would it look like?

    November 23rd, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Trond M.

    Congratulations with a good looking site, and an interesting concept!

    My 2 cents regarding monetization and the business model you are planning to use.. along with a couple of other commenters, I think you should offer free listings for dogwalkers – with plenty of opportunities to upgrade to a paid listing.

    IMO, the main goal should be to attract as many dog owners as possible, as this will enable you to sell all sorts of dog related items – food, training, books, toys.. you name it. I believe most dog owners spend relatively large amounts of money every year to keep their furry friend fat and happy – and with plenty of such visitors (and using mailing lists), you could probably make good money via affiliate programs and such.

    November 23rd, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Elliot

    @ Trond,

    Although Burbank.com and Lowell.com don’t have automated Yellow Pages, I do use the free/upgrade model there, and the results haven’t been as good as I wanted. I am making money from advertising on other areas of the site, but I don’t have that luxury with this domain name.

    November 23rd, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Kevin

    @ El – emailing some good vendors

    November 23rd, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Martin

    @Kevin, @Elliot

    although I think a directory script would be helpful in terms of functionality, Dluzional has already pointed out that you can achieve all functionality and more with WP. There won’t be the need to start migrating to another CMS if you’ve got the right coder at hand or if you can point him in the right directions (as Dluzional already did).

    November 23rd, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    David Conners

    In 1994, Director John Leslie released a porn movie titled “Dog Walker” — it might be mentioned at http://www.evilangel.com and/or http://www.iafd.com? I’ve performed in some of his subsequent movies (I entered the Adult Industry in late 1994, so I was not in this one — do a Yahoo search for my stage name of Dave Cummings?)

    Dave C.

    November 23rd, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Elliot

    @ David

    That’s “fucking” awesome!

    November 23rd, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Chris

    Great post… Nice looking site…

    @Kevin I noticed that you had some directory resources – would you mind posting them? Anyone else have some tips on directory software? I like many are getting ready to launch a couple of directories as they seem to get better PR rankings (which may change after the next major Google smack).

    I enjoy these postings because everyone is really thinking on their feet and really working together! Thanks!!!

    November 23rd, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Mike Sullivan

    Elliot,

    I really like the way the search functionality works and auto populates. For example, I live near Chicago and started to type in a neighborhood name: “Wri” and “Wrigleyville, Chicago” popped up.

    I’d love you know how you achieved that. Could you share?

    April 25th, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Elliot

    @ Mike

    Not really sure… that’s one of the things my developer did for me per my request.

    April 25th, 2010 at 12:09 am

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