Things I Would Have Done Differently on My GeoDomain Names | DomainInvesting.com

Things I Would Have Done Differently on My GeoDomain Names

20

Its been over a year since I developed my geodomain names, including Burbank.com, Lowell.com, and Newburyport.com, and although I’ve shared quite a bit about my development efforts, I’d like to share things I wish I had done that I will try to do on future projects. As the song goes, “I wish that I knew what I know now…”

1.) Used a content management system like WordPress or Joomla. This would have made updates much quicker and easier. I could publish articles immediately or have them post some time in the future. I could easily add new features and functionality using plugins. There are just too many advantages to a CMS to name.

2.) Determined each site’s identity before launch. Newburyport is a small town, but they have 3 newspapers. I should have focused entirely on tourism and skipped the news content. On the other hand, there aren’t enough local news sources in Lowell or Burbank. Based on what you determine your site’s focus will be, that should dictate the layout and design.

3.) Chose who will be writing content and how often. I either write my own news articles (mostly about special events) and publish press releases from local organizations. This takes a lot of my time, although it drives a considerable amount of traffic. Before you start, determine if you will be the writer or if you will hire journalists or copywriters. Even posting press releases is time consuming – especially without a CMS. Weigh the traffic reward vs. the effort and figure out how much its worth to your site to have regular, fresh content. Keep in mind that people want to read interesting things related to the community, so it’s probably not wise to hire a copywriter who doesn’t know the area. Additionally, there are probably legal issues with re-writing a news article from the local paper – especially if it’s a smaller city with one newspaper.

4.) Met with local newspapers in person.  It may have been mutually beneficial to meet with the local newspapers in the cities where my sites are located to see if we could work together to promote each other’s site. With my non-tourism names where I don’t write news articles (or don’t plan to write them) I would want to offer their RSS feed links on my home page (opening in a new window), in exchange for links back to my sites. I don’t know if this effort would work, but meeting in person is usually more beneficial than an email exchange.

5.) Used a calendar system that publishes events on its own pages. I started with a calendar that lists all events on one page and has popups when you hover over a date. This didn’t allow indexing in Google. I should have worked with calendar software that did what I needed out of the box. I am still having some issues, although they are being addressed.

6) Allowed businesses to create listings in Yellow Pages or manage their listings. I opted to hand code the Yellow Pages content (see this example for Lowell Yellow Pages) instead of using a database. I didn’t allow businesses to sign up or edit listings automatically because I didn’t have any experience in this area and didn’t want spam or to have to worry about processing payments. Now that I am more comfortable with this, I am regretting the decision to do it the way I did it.

7.) Been more aggressive about hiring a sales person. I was very passive about hiring a local sales person and didn’t make a great effort to hire someone. I had someone in Lowell, but a few days after he agreed to work on the site, he had a family emergency so things didn’t work out. Needless to say, I am not nearly making as much money as I should be making, although it’s in the 4 figures a year for each site (except Newburyport.com) right now. I have been far too passive about hiring a local advertising representative and/or seeking out advertisers on my own.

8.) Bought domain names in cities in which I am more familiar. Lowell.com and Newburyport.com were good strategic buys. I will probably be moving to the Boston area in a year or two. Burbank.com was a good domain acquisition, but it’s not as easy for me to get out there as often as I should. Lowell and Newburyport are a few hours away from me by car, and about 45 minutes apart from each other.

These are the most important things I can think of when considering what I would do differently. Hope this helps you as you begin or continue to develop – or as you are looking to buy a geodomain name.


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.


Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | | Facebook | Email

Comments (20)

    David J Castello

    All good/interesting points, Elliot. However, I would not do #5 until your site has impressive popularity/revenue/leverage. You are not their friend and, if anything, they will do everything to undermine you. These guys have it bad enough right now and will first see you as their worst nightmare. However, once you’re established (and they realize you’re not a “fly by night” and there to stay) you may get somewhere with them.

    December 4th, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    David J Castello

    PS: Sorry, I was referring to #4.

    December 4th, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Tim Davids

    Thanks Elliot for putting it all out there once again. If you hired a sales person would they be commission only? Burbank is far from you but of the names I know you own its my favorite.

    A move to Boston sounds interesting…I think that’s a few miles closer to me so I may make it to a future meetup :)

    December 4th, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Troy

    Thanks Elliot,

    Good advice here. I am still working on my geo domain and have followed a lot of your advice over time. I was glad to see that most of the decisions that you recommended above are decisions that I made correctly in your opinion.

    Just got my first set of content up last night and I am excited to see what happens in the future.

    December 4th, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Shaun Pilfold

    Lots of good insight there Elliot for those looking at putting up city sites and for many that already have them up. In terms of #4 as David mentioned, I agree.

    Before we launched Kelowna.com we contacted the publisher of the main daily newspaper and it basically came down to “I can’t see any reason we would need to talk to you”… the fun part is that she was no longer at that newspaper a few months later.

    In terms of covering local news in any in-depth manner, it is not for the feint of heart and can be very expensive. I do think for many city sites it also offer the greatest reward as the newspapers continue their death spiral. It’s one thing for the newspaper industry to be declining, it’s another to take advantage and fill the void.

    Your 8 points would be a good start for a checklist for starting a city site.

    December 4th, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    morgan

    Thanks Elliot,

    Reading about your process/reflections is always helpful to me as we build out our first geo site at Omaha.net. We’re using Drupal for our CMS and while hugely beneficial for scaling a large site, is also a constant wrestling match. Re #2 (identity) – this has been an education for us and something we are still trying to determine. Omaha is not a massive tourist destination but does receive a surprising amount of tourism and convention traffic. We are trying to figure out how to segment our traffic to optimally serve content to visitors vs. locals vs. people looking to relocate.

    We have the interesting challenge of our main competitor being Omaha.com which is also the local newspaper in town. While I of course would rather own the .com and am well versed in the challenges we face as a .net, the .com in this case is nearly universally reviled when you talk to people around town – AND experiencing all of the challenges and loss in readership that every major newspaper around the country is experiencing.

    So in short we feel that there is a real opportunity here to enter the space and fill certain gaps.

    Re: #8 – I’m also not from Omaha. My personal solution to this problem was to convince (trick?) my cousin to move to Omaha to be our content editor – although he frequently bemoans the fact that I didn’t acquire Honolulu.net :)

    December 4th, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Harris Reinhardt

    Elliot…..thanks for keeping us posted on your “journey” through development. Was wondering if it would pay to have a partner in Burbank. Not necessarily a partner in your domain name, just partner in the Burbank.com business. I’m sure you could find someone out there to focus on sales, content and local relationships.

    December 4th, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    dcmike77

    Two things.

    #1 FIX THE LOAD TIME ON BURBANK.com. It’s atrocious.

    #2 I work for BurbankLeader/LAtimes and you havent’ contacted me once

    -Mike

    December 4th, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Elliot

    @ DC Mike

    I’ve contacted (Dan) the Editor at the Burbank Leader via email, Facebook and telephone. I think a personal meeting might have been better to figure out how we could work together.

    @ Harris

    I haven’t tried to find a partner. I generally stay away from partnerships.

    December 4th, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Richard

    It’s hard to predict the future, lesson learned. I love joomla for most the reasons you posted above, easy event management with jevents, YP type directories with sobi2, real estate mods, easily wrap pages from jobamatic! You could always setup a test server to play with, you have the content, it just needs moving. Leave # 4 alone IMO, if you convert your geos to CMS than you could probably find/sum up your own stories or hire a writer where needed…

    December 4th, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    M. Menius

    Kelowna.com seems like a unique undertaking to me in that there is so much local news coverage with a dedicated staff. I wonder about the start up costs for something this ambitious. A great site with very obvious careful planning behind it.

    Somewhat different is Skip Hoagland’s Atlanta.com approach which is still using primarily a CNN feed as opposed to staff writers. Certainly functional.

    With Lowell.com, Elliot is largely a one man operation which seems obviously do-able. The content is there and the site has a definite identity. It’s the sales force concept that appears to be the next key ingredient. My opinion is that finding the right person to do this is not only very important, but critical to the success of the site. A community ad salesperson might become synonymous with the company (the company face). The wrong person can impose a setback. The right person can do wonders, ex. Castello/PalmSprings.com.

    December 4th, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    content writer X

    yes when you live in a town you are writing content for and the domain owner lives across the country insists on content you know nobody wants to read it’s hard to bear. You can hammer blows on their head they don’t wanna hear it. Their “vision” reigns.

    It’s even worse when the domain owner insist on ads for a travel market but claims the site will be read by locals who already know in a small town where the locals know every roach scurrying place and everything about local news before the phone rings. Beat my head against bricks but nooooo a year later you are figuring it out?

    I’ve only lived in Burbank for 40 odd years but why listen to me when ZIP CODE DATA is more interesting. Really?
    People in the city don’t want to be patronized with travel ads. You wouldn’t even believe me when i sent you a picture that Universal wasn’t right next to the airport.

    But I was looking forward to meeting you and you shined me and I could have told you things that might have advanced Burbank.com.

    Getting a sales rep for Burbank was impossible because one look at the site told both customers and salesperson the site was poorly conceived. Locals laughed out loud.
    info about parks when you’ve gone there since you were 5?

    Really, feeds for a town where people in their 50’s recognise each other 15 deep in line at the bank?

    domainer thou hast been in denial.

    December 5th, 2009 at 12:14 am

      Elliot

      @ content writer x / heather

      If you look at the search numbers, you’ll see what people who look online are looking to find when they search for Burbank-related information. Most are looking for information about the studios, restaurants, and hotels. Others are looking for information about the parks – things like “can we have a party,” “when does it close,” etc. My goal was not to target the Burbank crowd, as I obviously don’t have that experience.

      Getting traffic to Burbank.com has not been a problem for me.

      December 5th, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Heather S

    Why copy the safe channels of news a sleepy little town ignores? what kind of coverage is that? The Burbank Leader isn’t nicknamed the ‘Liar” for nothing.

    There is a lot going on in Burbank if you have the guts for the underbelly of journo news. But if you want get rich quick e-z site modeled on an awful template and a logo that sucks **lls, copy Lowell by the numbers by all means.

    I know Joomla and timing stories is fine. but of all people you don’t have to be reminded that content is King. New content, not repackaged bulk pablum from papers nobody reads. Getting a news writer wasn’t your problem.

    Putting the monetizing second and putting the real Burbank first was.

    December 5th, 2009 at 12:18 am

    james barclay

    elliot,

    all good points. the most important of them all is that you find ourself a hunter sales guy with prior MEDIA SALES experiance.

    in a company where i was a founding partner recently folded after 1 year with $250k investmen angel funding. Admittedly we launched in the worst financial crisis since 1930 (November 08), but it would have been an inevitable collapse based on the outgoings. We managed to sell around 30 video spots to local services in the nyc area which came to about$25k, but the outgoings were crazy and the ceo, despite my advice, put no critical leadership in finding/hiring/poaching firsdt class people with prior proveable sales experience.

    without that – u can have the fanciest website, ours was done by those who redesigned bloomberg.com and washington post,m a great content management system and four full time staff writers, one dedicated videographer/editor..the list continued…

    but hiring people from even car sales backgrounds, who werent afraid to hustle, didnt have the smarts and ecperience of prior media sales.

    best of luck

    james

    December 5th, 2009 at 3:46 am

    Duane

    Elliot, you and other are giving great advice in preventing others from making costly mistakes.

    The Year 2010 will also be my GEO Name venture and I have been studying and setting up the business plan for the past 6 months.

    Here are the most important questions which I had to find a solution for.

    1.) No question about using a CMS, it is the only way to go. But going over all types there are only 3 which I seen as positive for this venture. Joomla, Typolight & Typo 3 all are great CMS systems, but if wanting to work on multiple domains out of one CMS Joomla falls out of the question because you have to install a Joomla for each domain . While Typolight and Typo3 are more complicated for beginners they have much more powerful features in building a close to “all hands off” website when it comes to adding multiple editors/publishers for different sections of news or topics. Even advertisers could be given privilege to ad there on content like a press release.

    2.) Combining content writers and Sales force I see as most important. Example a new coffee shop opens downtown. While you or a content writer (salesperson) might write a article about the new shop, this new shop night not pay for advertisement/article on your site, but your sales force can go forward to other coffee shops in town and offer advertisement on that same page promoting there own offers. This new Coffee Shop might now be very interested in paying for flashy advertisement in the article.

    3.) Outsourcing Writers/Sales force. Keeping 1, 2 or 3 sites up to date might work for a certain period of time. But what if your not able to work? What if something happens and your health does not allow you to go on like you have been? This can happen quicker than most might think. We all know 16 hours a day on 6 or 7 days a week is not the exception, its more the general. So that is why I have decided to outsource as much as possible to a external company which will handle and build there own sales force and give them a good percentage of the deal. Its better to have 20 , 30 or 40 percent of a stable working enterprise than 100 percent of a dead enterprise. So outsourcing as much a possible, I see being a very important part.

    December 5th, 2009 at 7:57 am

    The "G."

    All you’ve done Elliot is gone through the pain and agony that we all have over the years and learned from your experience. It is just great that you share them with others, so we all don’t make or continue to make the same mistakes. Keep up the great work and keep us informed. I even tried to explain #1 to you some time back and you didn’t get it then, but life teaches us all and you have taught us all also. Thanks and keep sharing.

    Sincerely,
    The “G.”

    December 5th, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Rob Sequin

    Elliot,

    Great post, very educational. Thanks for all that information.

    1. Moving to the Boston area is a great idea. This way you can visit Lowell and Newbuyport regularly to find content AND pitch to advertisers.

    2. It would be interesting to note if your visitors are going to the city or live in the city. Each would be looking for different content I would think. For example, people who live in Newburyport may not care about hotels but would care about day care or pet grooming.

    Let’s have a meet up on Cape Cod in summer 2010 :-)

    December 5th, 2009 at 9:41 am

    J.R. Jackson (internet's $8-Million Man)

    Great information Elliot.

    Question about #1 – I am familiar with WP, it is easy to install and there are a ton of plugins. I’m confused over Joomla and I have always had to hire programmers to do everything for me.

    If you were to use WP what business directory plugin and theme would you use?

    Thank you

    J.R.

    December 5th, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Leave a Reply

Name *

Mail *

Website