City in The Box vs. My Custom Sites

After posting an article highlighting some news Fred Mercaldo shared with me, there were a number of questions from readers asking about and, two of my websites built on different platforms. I want to address some of those questions, which may be helpful in your geodomain development endeavors. and were both originally built on the same static html platform by my developer. The original articles were written by copywriters I hired, and I either took the photos or hired a photographer for them, I did all the SEO work on both websites and managed the advertising sales (poorly). Because the sites I had built were static html, I needed to update 5 or 6 pages on each site whenever I needed to add a content page. This was a pain in the ass, and I sought out a different solution.

After learning about the City in The Box platform, I decided to move forward with The site receives 20,000 +/- unique visits a month, and I wanted to leverage Fred’s development and advertising sales experience. His team put all the content I created on its platform, and they have continued to add articles and events. I am also able to add events as well. Essentially, I can be as involved or uninvolved as I would like. The team has also been responsive to my development requests. In fact, someone posted a comment on my blog about a small error they noticed, and it was fixed within minutes.

On, my developer (Mike McAlister) used a bunch of design elements I wanted and built it on WordPress. People can sign up for an account and post articles and events on the site. This is also great because it makes the site more interactive for visitors and local organizations. It also helps build traffic while engaging local businesses. The downside to this is that I still manage everything, and it’s not easy to get people to add content for some reason. It’s a work in progress.

One downside to City in The Box that I found was that SEO wasn’t as good as I hoped, and Fred and I discussed that aspect of the site. hasn’t suffered in rankings, but I was worried about that aspect. A piece of very good news that was announced is a deal with a SEO company that will make changes and updates across the platform to improve SEO.   With, I am able to oversee the basic on-site SEO, and I use the All in One SEO plugin, which has been helpful.

Fred Mercaldo and his team are responsible for bringing on advertisers on   This should have started yesterday, and it’s the most exciting aspect of working with the team.   Including hotel revenue and ad sales, I made under $1k/month.   I think they will ramp this up tremendously.   I am responsible for ad sales on, and although I have a number of advertisers now, revenue isn’t strong (under $500/month).

The primary reason I moved forward with City in The Box is because they have experience building a profitable group of websites in and other local sites. I wanted to reduce my role in day to day management of due to my time constraints, and I wanted to have access to their advertising sales team.

With the smooth transition I’ve had so far, I am confident that this will be a profitable endeavor. I have never been afraid to significantly invest in domain assets, and I think it’s important to invest in those domain assets in order to create additional revenue streams.

I’ve always been wanting to take initiative and do things myself, but there’s a point where I realized I can’t do everything on my own successfully. I reached out to the best of breed, and I am confident this will be successful. As promised before, I will be happy to provide updates on the sales process in a few months.

As I continue to reiterate, I am not making any money on affiliate deals for sign ups or getting any kick backs for discussing this. I want to be open and transparent with my business.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. Elliot, who is making big money with city portal? well not everyone because you need to be serious about it and do as your primary business, not doing domaining, then outsourcing the work… That is the wrong way to go.
    You have to have your own company and be 100% on that city website. Meet potential advertisers, offline marketing (daily), social marketing… Hey, it’s a business not a website like we see millions on the web with affiliate links and adsense all over, article and that’s it!
    Also you need to have a business plan on how to make profits from your site and pricing.
    I know a site hawaii dot com that is working really well and have good profits. Try to subscribe to their newsletter and you’ll find out why they are success; marketing is the key.

  2. @ Waikiki

    I agree that you need to be 100% dedicated to make the most money. However, these are also long term investments for my companies, and they are earning more than the cash would in the bank. I can also opt to blow them out fully in the future and turn them into fully operational, independent businesses if I choose to do so down the road. For now, they are expensive investments that are earning revenue.

  3. Appreciate your candid reflection, the revenue to visitor ratio definitely seems on the low end of the scale…have you pursued trying to land a whale advertiser…ie run of the site, lowell is sponsored exclusively by xyz company….

    It seems trying to go after individual $50-100 sales would be tough, but for someone to drop 1-2k as the sole sponsor and see where things go from there may be a bit more likely to see a return…

    I can tell you there are a lot of companie pitching the idea of cpm advertising right now ranging from the yellowpages to reachlocal and they all want at least $750 a month to adverise on the Yahoo network…maybe see who may be doing this in these markets and you can find some potential leads

  4. Waikiki, it’s a fallacy that you need to be #1 in everything. You can very well with ‘decent’ sites. Plus, once you got the name you can expand or sell very easily./

  5. Thanks for the updates as I have been self-developing some South Florida geos since late 2009. As I am still relatively new to development, traffic is light and earnings paltry. It would be interesting to hear more about the process of acquiring and quoting advertising relationships. Look forward to hearing how your sites continue to progress.

  6. Elliott,

    Of the 20K visitors a month what % are type-in. Also, how much does it cost for city in the box for burbank upfront and what are your costs per month?

    I really appreciate you being so candid and open about everything you do.

    Thanks, Jim

    • @ Bobby

      Url structure wasn’t as clean as I had it previously, breadcrumbs weren’t as good, there wasn’t a 404 error page, and there were a couple of other minor things that I can’t remember but are being addressed.

  7. Elliot,
    Can you give us an overall update on and City In The Box? Has the platform met your expectations? And would you now recommend this platform for other geo domain owners who want to build out their site?

  8. Thought I would weigh in here…..City In The Box and CitiesPlanet have done a few things very well. Launching over 65 sites that we manage on a daily basis is one of them, and our platform has been very reliable and well received. While SEO is a constantly moving target, but ours has received high marks from SEO consultants that we have employed over the years. What we have struggled with is monetizing both the network as a whole, and also each specific But….solutions are on the way. There will be several key announcements in the coming weeks regarding some major VC developments, a complete rebuild and relaunch of our platform, under the management of some of the best and proven executives in our field, and close to 200 new sites joining our existing 65….along with this expansion comes over 15,000,000 existing visitors per month. This will now allow us to deal in the big leagues with quality national and international advertisers. Along with a game plan that will eventually take advantage of exactly what’s are supposed to do….and that is take advantage of the hyper local advertising dollar in each city. So….many changes, all very positive….and again, we will have much more to report soon. Burbank specifically needs local representation and “feet on the street”; we are right in the middle of “round two funding” and plan on accomplishing this very shortly. Thanks. Fred.

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