Pulling Back the Curtain on One of My City .com Websites | DomainInvesting.com
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Pulling Back the Curtain on One of My City .com Websites

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I think I share quite a bit of information about my business with people who read my blog. In my own opinion, it’s one of the primary reasons why people return to my blog daily, as I am not only talking about doing things, but I am actually doing the things I talk about.  Basically the only thing I won’t discuss on my blog is my revenue because I make a very good living, and it’s frankly not your business to know how much money I make :)

That being said, I read about SanDiego.com, and I thought I would give you some insight into one of my geodomain websites to share how it’s doing. I am keeping the domain name out of the post, as I don’t want to draw attention from local competitors who probably have a variety of Google alerts, but if you’ve read my blog for more than a couple of days, it should be very easy to figure out.

Below is some information about the domain name, the traffic, its revenue, cost…etc.  Just some things coming from the top of my head. It’s one of many projects I am working on, and I will discuss my thoughts on expanding below the numbers.

  • Traffic has been over 10,000 uniques a month for about a year.  It had close to 18,000 uniques in March.
  • There are a four paying advertisers on the newly re-launched site (launched a couple weeks ago)
  • Top banner costs $600/month (with a 100% rotation), the smaller banners at $99/month, and the side banners at $199/month
  • Hotel and Restaurant listings are $199/year
  • Job listings and clicks on the job board generate around $100/month
  • I earn somewhere around $7-10/day in Adsense although I haven’t checked in a few days
  • Yellow Pages listings are $99/year, although I haven’t actively looked for YP advertisers yet
  • Beginning in 2 weeks, I will have a local sales representative working on a 100% commission basis
  • My fixed developer costs  were a few thousand dollars for the entire site (doesn’t cost anything on an ongoing basis) and I pay about $50/month for hosting
  • I don’t pay for content. All articles are either written by me or user submitted
  • I spend between 30 minutes to an hour on the site daily, including Facebook and Twitter to promote the site
  • I don’t spend any money on bringing traffic to the site
  • The domain name alone cost $50,000 paid all in cash
  • There is no debt owed for this site (or my businesses in general)
  • Total revenue is in the ballpark of $1,000/month for the site right now.

When it all boils down, I run a very lean operation here with very low fixed costs monthly and very little overhead.  I strongly believe I will be able to make at least $30,000 a year in revenue within 2 years, keeping things as lean as they are now and just picking the low hanging fruit.  All that revenue will go to my bottom line as I don’t have anyone to pay. Traffic continues to grow, and I think the site being on WordPress is very helpful. Keep in mind that as traffic grows, advertising costs will ramp up.

There is a huge opportunity in the future, although I don’t know if it’s worth the risk. In this city, there is just one newspaper. Compare this to another city .com name I own, where the city has 1/3 of the residents but 4 local newspapers.  The problem is that it will cost a lot of money to hire journalists, photographers, developers, sales people, creative staff, lease office space, buy office equipment…etc.  I probably would have to finance it all with loans, and in the end that is a gamble. I suspect it would take close to $500k just to start the process of turning the site into a newspaper – and that’s a conservative number.

One of the biggest challenges I personally have is knowing when to ramp something up and when I should keep things small. I was lucky enough to be able to ramp up the revenue on my blog, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to spend the time to do it.  Simply put, I would be hurting my other businesses by working on something that wasn’t making money.  With my blog though, ramping up meant that I needed to reach out to contacts to find advertisers, which has been the easy part. This will be a challenge with the city .com site, as I don’t live in the city and don’t have many contacts.

With my city .com websites, I think at least two of them could eventually compete with the big newspapers, but it would be a gigantic risk.  At the end of the day, I don’t need to make them huge sites and can do well with a few small websites, but there’s always the lure of becoming bigger and growing my company.

As they say, it takes money to make money, and sometimes you need to borrow money to make it big. Many people either would prefer to take risks with investors’ money or they just don’t have the capital to do it alone, and that’s a big gamble. For me, I don’t think that’s going to be an option.

At the pace I am going, it will be a while before I make my money back, but I am confident my geodomain names are worth what I paid in this case, and worth much more than I paid in the other cases.


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and his company earns revenue from domain names. Elliot is President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Elliot is the publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Read this blog's disclaimer for information about the publisher, comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts.

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Comments (21)

    Mike Sullivan

    That’s a great article and thanks for sharing the details of that project. It provides great perspective on what it takes to have a good business behind a good domain.

    May 4th, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Adi

    Elliot,

    What is your view on online business directories for small towns\cities? Do you believe they can be profitable without providing any other content than business listings?

    I have a good domain for a small City and they still don’t have their own Business Directory. The Yellow Pages does cover the area but I believe it would be nice for the City to have their own directory.

    Thanks,
    Adi

    May 4th, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Elliot

    @ Adi

    Really depends on the traffic to the site. IMO, it’s tough to get good Google rankings on a simple directory, and businesses won’t pay for listings unless you give them a compelling reason to do so (lots of traffic).

    It took a year to get traffic above 10,000 uniques a month.

    May 4th, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    David J Castello

    Needless to say, you’re doing it right, Elliot.

    May 4th, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    aaron

    “It took a year to get traffic above 10,000 uniques a month.”

    Is the traffic growth that you’ve experienced (and that you project for the future) largely due to better search engine rankings for your core keywords?

    Thanks for sharing your example.

    May 4th, 2010 at 4:59 pm

      Elliot

      @ Aaron

      It was SEO work, getting listed on Google News, networking with local organizations…etc. The primary keyword (Lowell) seems to be very competitive.

      May 4th, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Wufuquan

    Thank you for great post.
    Btw, may I know the software used for built SanDiego.com ?

    May 4th, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Mark

    Hi Elliot:

    Great post.

    Congrats on a great site.

    One question though, do you have any thoughts on the notion that Google views WordPress platform sites as blogs? This could have serious consequences on ranking a robust site like yours.

    Just curious,
    Mark

    May 4th, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Elliot

    @ Mark

    Not entirely sure, but that’s something I will need to monitor. There are a number of popular and robust sites using WordPress without problems.

    May 4th, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Jacob

    @Mark

    WordPress powers some of the most popular static content sites on the internet. The post Morgan recently made on this subject was extremely uninformed, to say the least.

    May 4th, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    Mark

    @Jacob @Elliot

    Thanks Jacob. I was referring to the post Morgan recently made. Please know I am just trying to learn and when I read of differing opinions I ask.

    May 5th, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Elliot

    @ Mark

    I didn’t read Morgan’s post but will go and look for it in the morning. I appreciate the comment because it’s important to test everything, and even one small thing can lead to big issues. At the moment though, I am too far deep with WP to do anything :)

    As an aside, DogWalker.com is built on WP and does quite well ranking for its important keywords.

    May 5th, 2010 at 12:10 am

    Fred Mercaldo

    Elliot…your reference to SanDiego.com should send a message to us all…that no matter how great a domain name is, various circumstances and conditions can lead to a failure. We must constantly monitor new techniques in order to properly monetize our assets. Our partnership on Burbank.com and our results will pretty much be public knowledge by years end as to our success; we take nothing for granted and believe that this work ethic, combined with experience and focus, will make this successful.
    Regarding SanDiego.com though…it is a sad story…Mark Burgess is an intelligent and enterprising person…full of enthusiasm and commitment….I know Mark well, and I am proud to be a friend of his. I believe he will thrive in the future as he learns and grows…and again…all of us should take note that we need to do 110% every day to survive and succeed.

    May 5th, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Too Many Secrets

    @Elliot, thanks for sharing!

    @Adi, picking which cities to develop and what content to use is a tricky business. I’ve written about it here:

    http://toomanysecrets.com/choose-domains-development/

    - Richard

    PS. We can’t all be lucky enough to own PalmSprings.com – sorry guys! Geo domain development is hard work and costly to maintain. Just look at recent news about Kelowna.com and SanDiego.com

    May 5th, 2010 at 8:49 am

    CC

    I commented on Morgans post about wordpress citing several personal examples that proved his post was misinforming people. Guess what he did not post my blog comment but posted many others after it that praised his findings.

    I run many sites that are rarely updated on wordpress and they retain there rankings just fine.

    I am not sure of the validity of his blog after I saw his selective posting of only comments that praised him.

    May 5th, 2010 at 9:00 am

      Elliot

      @ CC

      It’s quite possible it got caught in the spam filter. Morgan doesn’t seem like the type of guy that wouldn’t approve comments just because they aren’t in agreement with his.

      Just as an FYI, DogWalker.com is also built on WordPress, and it ranks #1 in G&Y for dog walker, #5 in G for dog walkers, #1 in Y for dog walkers, #12 in G for dog walking, and #10 in Y for dog walking. All three terms are very competitive, especially on the local level.

      Since moving Lowell.com to WordPress, my most important SERP rankings have improved.

      May 5th, 2010 at 9:03 am

    JJ

    I can also vouch for WP being fine for SEO – I have several sites on WP that rank very well, in fact I think Google may even prefer to rank WP above ‘static’ sites due to the fact they are easily updatable and often contain more ‘current’ information.

    @Too Many Secrets
    I hadn’t heard about Kelowna.com but just found a couple of articles referencing the closure of the news dept and returning it to a tourism website. It’s a shame – I was impressed when the site was launched and was really hoping they would see success.
    Do you have any links you can share about this story?

    May 5th, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Adi

    @ Too Many Secrets

    thanks for the link. i’ll have to check it out.

    i have already invested few $$$ into this project and would like to launch it anyway. i want to see if i can make any money and then move to a different area.

    May 5th, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Dennis H.

    Elliot, I would be interested in hearing more about using a local sales representative, such as 1) How to locate? 2) Qualifications/background/experience? 3) Payment range/amount/%? 4) Tax treatment by IRS? 5) Anything else you think would be useful. You could also report how it works out as time goes along. Obviously you don’t have to give out exact figures, just ballpark as you did in the article or whatever you feel comfortable with. Thanks for all the information you’ve published so far, it will probably help me and others avoid costly mistakes.

    Thanks, Dennis

    May 5th, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Adi

    @Dennis – Great questions. I wanted to ask a similar question the other day.

    May 5th, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Elliot

    @ Dennis

    You’re asking the wrong guy, as I don’t really have much experience with this :)

    I was lucky in that I posted something on the city’s Facebook page I created asking if anyone knew of a person looking for additional sales work. I got one of the leading sales guys from a local cable/Internet company who wanted to earn some extra income. He will be getting commission per sale, which will be greater if the person gets the local business to pay with Paypal subscription. We haven’t hammered out the final numbers. He will be working under an independent contractor’s agreement.

    I think tax treatment will be the same as a freelancer, but I let my accountant worry about everything related to taxes.

    May 5th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

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