My wife and I live in New York City with our 2 year old dog, Lucy, and on occasion, we need to use the services of a dog walker. We are fortunate to live in a large apartment building because it’s easy to find a dog walker via word of mouth, since there are so many dog owners in the building.
However, there are many people who don’t necessarily have dog walker contacts, and they rely on sites like Craigslist to find dog walkers and companies who offer dog walking services in addition to other pet-related services. There are only a couple of websites that cater specifically to connecting dog owners and dog walkers.
With dog walkers earning up to $20 per dog for a 15 minute walk (sometimes even more), I believe there is a big reason why dog walkers should advertise, and with the launch of my latest targeted website, they have a place to advertise by city. With a whole lot of help of my from designer, Mike McAlister of Six One Five Design, I launched DogWalker.com, a domain name I recently acquired.
As with every website launch, there are still a few issues to fix. Some of the search functionality isn’t working as well as we’d like, and I need to get advertisers to fill the directory! This is the launch of my first automated directory, and I am eager to see if this will take off, since I have a few other names that would do well with this set up.
Here are a couple of pages you can visit to see how things will look:
- Houston Dog Walkers (landing page set up for SEO purposes)
- All Dogs Gym & Inn (dog walker listing)
I have a thousand DogWalker.com magnets, and I will be paying a graduate student to hand them out in a few parks in NYC on the next few weekends. I figure if dog owners are visiting the site, dog walkers will want to advertise. I also plan to email dog walkers to let them know about the new site and hopefully sign up some advertisers. Perhaps local pet stores will permit me to leave magnets at their register. The beauty is that the marketing of the site should remain fairly inexpensive.
When you have a moment, please have a look at the site and let me know if you find any glitches. Any suggestions/recommendations on improving search functionality and SEO would be appreciated. I am considering adding a autocomplete search feature to help direct visitors to the correct city listing pages.
Next up… DogTrainer.com 🙂
Great job! This is really one of the ways to unlock the value of a name. Looks awesome.
You have to be pack leader..lol
That looks very nice, it has a nice look and feel to it and I love the colours and graphics.
The way you’ve named the pages eg: (houston-dog-walkers) and the popular searches on the homepage it should rank very well in Mr G 🙂
Very nice so far
I really like the design and ease of use. There has to be trust for the site with a concept like this and I think design is a big part of that kind of trust…you pulled it off nicely. Congratulations on this one!
You need to submit it to techcrunch and have them do a write up on it. Perfect audience for the name.
Care to share a range in the development of this type of site, what your expected time frrame to breakeven is and what the back end system is built on for content mgt and uploading advertisers..
great clean design and look, btw
I would focus on finding strategic partners for growth as animal/dog lovers are usually pretty easy to connect with…good luck!
Nice job Elliot! great name plus it is something you are more interested in vs something like Tropical Birds. Like Don, I’d be interested in hearing more about your site planning/development experience with dogwalker.com
Clearly; a dog-gone good idea.
No one’s gonna’ accuse you of barking up the wrong tree with this one. 😉
I got a chuckle on this one, El. Unlike myself, you’re a doer. I’ve been sitting on dogwalkingservice.com for a couple of years now. In the present economy, it’s a nice way for students/the unemployed/retirees to make some serious cash. Best of luck with it.
Thats an awesome site! Being in the dog sites niche myself I would really love to own such a domain. I guess it´s way over my budget at this time though. But I wish you the best of luck with it!
Congrats Elliot. I remember watching/bidding on this domain name go to auction at Godaddy a couple years ago only to have the owner redeem it. Excellent purchase and project.
Great idea and beautiful website. Way to go!
Just checked out dogwalker.com.
I cannot stop doing puppy laps over this great site.
Nice work! Kudos to Mike.
I honestly think this could be your most profitable site to date.
Just curious if you are going to use some kind of directory service?
Did Mike do the logo?
Gotta go lap up some water.
Love the look and feel – just read this article today – about half way down article they mention – “Small businesses using video now include real estate agents, health and exercise vendors and dog walkers. ”
Great name – and great job taking action :}
Great name, great site, but I think you are making a mistake by charging for listing at this stage.
I was searching two zip codes and got nothing…If I was a dog owner I wouldn’t come back.
I think what you really need at this point is a lot of traffic (dog owners )and a lot of listings (dog walker).
dont promote it before your audience can find the service they came for
Have a special – first three/six months for free and than start charging.
El-Silver, this could be your breakout website…
I believe that directories hold the key for success in monetization on a certain type of domains a lot of domainers own. Your success in completing this site will certainly inspire many people to follow in your footsteps in building out their niche directories.
One of the best posts I’ve ever read (because it follows my logical understanding of the progression of domain investing buildouts.)
Very nice setup.
It’s 1 of those websites that you might do better promoting offline, like your magnet idea and so on.
i’d go into the backend and remove the signup fee, before i thought of anything else.
make it free, untill you find another service to charge for. having to pay to find the actual service doesnt work very often. especially on directories.
people may pay to be listed (long way off yet though) but most will not pay to actually look.
Awesome sites and great work! I believe with more and more people becoming so busy, demand for dog walking services will shoot up. Good luck to your sites!
Nice site! But as Yaron says you need dog walkers to make your site work. I have many Directory sites and know that there are two ingredients to these sites, Advertisers (for content) and Visitors. You may want to give free ads unitl July 2010 to get your content in place. Or you may want to do a “Lead Request Form” like I do with http://www.Modulars.com and other sites. This way both the consumers and advertisers do not see blank content. In addition you are getting leads that you can work with.
You need to pre-load in a database of dog walkers and then add subsequent new ones joining the network for free and then monetize by charging them to upgrade for premium listings where their listing appears at the top for a zip search and they get to include photos/videos of themselves walking dogs so people can feel trust (which pics/videos will accomplish).
Otherwise the site is just a search engine with NO results for a long time for most queries and it will be very hard to make it work.
The magnet idea is a good marketing idea but if only 1 city you won’t have nationwide punch.
Some more thoughts. If I was looking for a dog walker I’d like to see customer comments under each listing to see what others are saying about a particular dog walker. Not sure if this feature is there already since I couldn’t find any actual listings.
Also from a legal standpoint I would enhance your disclaimer in super huge letters with a section specifically addressing that you are not endorsing any dog walkers listed on the site and when someone hires a dog walker on your site they do so at their own risk and that they it is the customer’s responsibility to verify the dog walker’s credentials they present prior to hiring them. You don’t want customers to assume because a dog walker is on your site that that means they’ve been qualified as being legit and a provider of quality services.
Odds are nothing will ever arise, but all you need is one idiot on the system that loses someones precious dog or snatches them and you’ll get intertwined into the lawsuit.
GREAT looking site. You have a winner there. I do agree with Kevin. If you do that, you are off to the races!
Looking good Elliot,
From an SEO perspective, I would consider (in no particular order):
1. Adding a site map to the site (have it link on everypage) and then do an XML site map feed into Google & Yahoo for deep crawling/indexing
2. In the footer I would maybe test updating your Home link to Dog Walker Home (get the benefit of the holy grail keyword in the anchor link)
3. While you have a search by state link; I would also add a search by state drop down box on each page; the search engines will crawl the drop down list and pickup each state name withthe keyword dog walker….
4. I would test sub domains too such as http://NewYork.DogWalker.com and http://Florida.DogWalker.com, etc.
5. Add some videos/testimonials so dog walkers can upload with a flip camera some “sales copy/promo”
6. Like the logo but maybe put the tagline in real text (not graphical) so the spiders can crawl that keyword local dog walker
More to come…..heading into NYC myself now going to see a show, will look out for the magnets!
More to come….
PS – I own PetFoodContainers.com and 1800Veterinarian.com and 1800Veterinarians.com if you ever want to do something….
It’s a very nice design. It is clear to see the evolution from tropicalbirds.com to this. The great thing is that thanks to your blog many readers have been able to make this progress alongside you without the trial and error that you went through.
One question i have is the use of Google maps. Do you have to pay for that as it is a commercial site?
Thanks all for your comments and suggestions!
@Yaron, Tony, and Kevin
I am going to be giving free listings (quietly) to select dog walkers, but I don’t want to make it free yet. There are some limitations with the plugin, and if I get 100 dog walkers to sign up for free right away, I don’t want to have to figure out when their first year expires and then chase them down to pay for the upgrade. I agree that if people come to the site (because of a magnet or advertising) and see no dog walkers, they will be less likely to return. The plan is to pump it locally (NYC) where I am and where there are many dog walkers and grow it from there.
Perhaps on my next site I will use a shopping cart or other technology where I can give a free year and then charge them, but there are complications with that, too.
Thanks for the great suggestions. Already changed the footer link from “Home” to “Dog Walker” and added a visual sitemap (I have an XML sitemap with the city listings and am going to create the standard auto-updating Google site map via plugin.
I might test subdomains down the road. I want to keep it uncomplicated in that respec for now. I am not sure if I can do the video upload either. I want to make it as simple as possible, so when things get going, I can have limited involvement, and I fear that adding other features like that will be confusing and have people emailing me for help.
How about including a list of all the Dog kennels (dog boarding) for each area ?
ALOT of people have to use kennels on a regular basis.
This may pull in more dog owners who will then view the dog walking services and hopefully increase its use.
Great business model, very nice website. Great way to unlock the value of a domain, I agree. My wife already sent this to a friend of hers that does dog walking in LA. This one should grow fast for you. Congrats!
Maybe you could put a free adverts up on craiglists (if it is free in NYork) wanting a dogwalker $40 for 10 minutes? Register at dogwalker.com for more information.
Good way to quickly get them I reckon!
Was also thinking that you should add “dog walkers” comments/feedback on your dog walkers registration page a.s.a.p to increase the conversion rate of people actually registering on the site.
“Thanks dogwalker.com I am now walking 492 dogs a week and clearing $8000 a week! People just keep ringing every day. Thanks again dogwalker.com ” lol 🙂
Great Job Elliot. I think this is a great vertical. This one page we have for Toronto has grown almost totally organically:
On your site you should remove the links to these pages:
since they have no content – just add back the links as you fill up the listings. Never link to 20 pages that have different URLs but little or no difference in content
But overall – OUTSTANDING and could eventually serve as the model for similar vertical/local sites.
My 3rd comment now after doing some quick market research on the dog walking industry and reading other comments.
I think this thread illustrates a key point that many domainers don’t get and that is, “Content is King.”
Users could care less what a site design looks like. As long as the content is there that they are looking for and want, that is all that matters. I’d say the majority of the sites I visit every day, I really don’t even like their site designs, but they provide content I want to read, so they’ve got my allegiance. So all the comments about nice design, wow that’s a winner, etc. really don’t seem to be seeing the big picture of what it takes to make a site work. I could write lots more on this topic, but I’ll leave it at that.
Next, how big is the market? I did a search for dog walkers in the 4 biggest cities in the US, and the market really isn’t as large as I thought it was. And even in NYC the number of dog walking services seemed small. Of course this was a quickie, so maybe with more extensive research you could find more of an industry here, but at first glance it’s rather limited looking.
Next, the competition. Not much to speak of. Which is a good and bad sign. On the positive side that leaves an opening for a market leader to appear. On the negative side that reinforces my market research and indicates it’s a smorgaboard of tiny mom and pop size operations. This means you’re dealing with potential advertisers that don’t have big ad budgets.
Next, I think it would have been smarter El to buy both the singular and the plural, especially since DogWalkers.com already has a site up too. And I think the plural is the one most people would do as a type-in in this case. So you may want to pursue that fellow and see if he’lss sell. Your magnets might end up sending him a good chunk of the business.
Anyways, on a closing note here, everyone should look at the 25 sites they visit most each day and ask themselves “Is it the design of each site that they like?” or “Is it the content of each site they like?” and that gets them to come back each day. I’m curious to see how many agree with me on this that the content is the reason they come back everyday and not the design, and thus site design is always going to be 2nd fiddle to content.
Easy to tell someone to spend $30k on the plural name – would you have spent that money after spending a bunch for the singular? 🙂 Actually, they told me they turned down $28,000 for the plural and have been leasing it for the past few years, so no dice on that either.
You are wrong about type in traffic, since there are 2x the number of searches for “dog walker” than “dog walkers.” People search for things like “Dog walker on the upper west side” rather than “dog walkers” since they only want one dog walker. In addition, Compete shows DogWalker.com which was never developed has more traffic already (1,162 visits) than DogWalkers.com (494 visits), which is developed.
I do agree about design, especially because as we’ve discussed, we both have very different tastes when it comes to design. The ultimate thing is content and ease of use, but I am not looking to do the free to pay model, although I will be giving some select listings away for free. My designer and I are still working on a couple of search bugs.
The way I look at it, if I get one or two listings in a few of the biggest markets ASAP, competitors will have to/want to list there too. $49/year is 3 total walks, so we’re not talking big expense.
Yes I saw there are twice as many on the searches, but what people search for and what people then type are not always the same which is why I mentioned on the magnets you may end up sending business to the plural. Also look at the serps for both. “dog walker” has 195,000 and “dog walkers” has 3,100,000. So there is significantly more “useage” of the term dog walkers than dog walker.
I know many domainers look at searches only, but imo it’s important to look at the SERPS on the keywords also to see the full picture of searching and common useage.
Knowing how much the owner of the plural is making on a lease deal per month, that name would have cost much more. The beauty of the magnet is that they will put it on their refrigerator for easy reference. I can only do so much 🙂
If this was going to be a full time business, I would have probably been better served buying both, but for my intentions, it wouldn’t be worth that to me.
I agree with the poster above that there isn’t much of a market for this service. The people who would pay a person to talk walk their dog are usually rich people that have personal assistants at home. HOWEVER, it is still a decent website idea.
I always thought that pet hotels would never become popular, but they are from what I have read.
Maybe your best option would be to expand your idea into more niches so you have a wider target audience.
For what it is worth, I think you are on the money.
Design is very, very important. So is content.
I think you are off to an awesome start.
The content will come, but, you have launched, launched well and launched in a way that is pleasing to the eye.
People can do “market research” up the wazoo and it only makes them poor decision makers.
You went with your gut and implemented.
And thanks very much for inspiring many of us.
Well put comment by Mark. The reality is getting a nice directory site out there with a look and feel that is professional lends legitimacy to your product. This kick starts long term growth when it comes to the users/community for this particular type of website.
I see this with my agency’s clients all the time. We develop a site for them to get things going, then you build a following and community over the long haul with the proper marketing. This is how it works when it comes to niche markets.
I used to think that also about design. But I’ve come to the conclusion now that is doesn’t matter and often making too good looking a design creates distraction from the profit centers on the site.
Sure there are some exceptions. But all you have to do is look at the home page of Google and that says it all. And I guarantee you if you asked a million people who didn’t know what Google is what they thought of their home page they would just laugh at and say are you kidding, that’s the web site of a $180 Billion dollar company?
And to say market research creates poor decision making is contrary to how the most successful companies in the world became what they are. Again citing Google, which is known to be so into market research it borders on the level of having OCD with every single implementation they do on anything. Or look at the world’s most successful retailer WalMart and the unbelievable amount of market research they do on even the most minute component of their operations.
If Silver Internet Ventures was a $180 Billion dollar company then I am sure additional market research would be done and perhaps even called for.
However, it’s not, (yet).
It’s one guy, (a smart guy) in an apartment launching internet ventures.
Ask any successful entrepreneur, “What is your most valuable asset?”
What will they most likely answer? “Intuition”.
My point, and I am not trying to be disrespectful to anyone, is simply that sometimes you have to say WTF. Credit here writer Paul Brickman (Risky Business).
We are all a bunch of scrappy entrepreneurs trying to make a buck.
And Elliot doing it and doing it again and again.
Like the concept on things and the design and clean and easy to use imo. I agree that the site should be free when starting this out and gain the traffic, branding awareness in nyc. I would just focus on the nyc market and take down the other markets. Could be a distraction and you know the nyc market since you live there. You know your focusing on new york city for this area and add one market at a time vs trying grab things all at once. When timing is right and all the various contacts you know, blog readers here, domainers, business owners I would then write a list of contacts in the next market you want to attempt, revenue share or commission or small salary in handling markets outside of nyc.
@Kevin also agree with you on design some. You can have the most fancy website and guess what, it dosent do that well. You have a fancy website and complexity of things and guess what makes zero. Been down that route a few years back.
This reminds of blackfriday.com vs blackfriday.info. I been asking a couple friends outside the domain community, navigation aspects, design look at 4 out of 5 said they would go back to blackfriday.info. Basic sells and at times domainers or developers to focused on design and complexity of things.
I feel elliots site is right on the mark though and doing various trial and errors early on is key. At some point Elliot is going need to question how many full blown businesses can he actually manage and geo .com sites, now this.
Great work Elliot and love the name!
Maybe that’s a future blog post. How to manage all the websites, mini websites, outsource, content writying, one website, many websites. I’m sure a lot of us are always questioning things at times.
You want a page titled: “dog walking jobs” 1300 Exact/3600 phase in google keyword tool to capture those searching for jobs and if landed on your site would probably sign up to your deal.
You have a great name to get dog owners to your site, the challenge is to get the actual dog walkers to it.
I really like blog post like these, when domains are turned into real business’s than just flipping letters.
Video is very powerful.
To increase dog walkers signing up, you could add a video testimonial to your sign up page.
Could arrange one of your select few dog walkers that are getting signed up to the site for free to return the favor by offering a video testimonial to entice the dog walkers to list on your site. e.g talk about how much work they are getting from the site.
Elliot – had another great idea (or at least I think its great)….
Being that link popularity is SO IMPORTANT these days for SEO; we’re talking quality inbound links…not cheesy reciprical links with irrelevant sites…
So – here’s my idea: connect with Pet Store who essentially are NOT competing with you….offer them a link/listing on your website in exchange for BOTH a link on their pet store website to DogWalker.com and also some in store visibility like a flyer, sign, etc. This should really help with building your link popularity…in addition because you are attracting pet owners, the pet stores should want to get in on some of your geo-targeted traffic (Ex. Long Island Pet Store get listing on Long Island, NY Dog Walkers page….
If you also create some contest like submit a picture of your pet to win a free $50 photo book from http://www.SmileBooks.com (our client who will do it) then as you amass a large database of pet owners, you can monetize the list and/or offer the local pet stores the ability to send promos to your email list of pet owners in their area if they link to your site and put signage in their store…..
What do you think?
Despite the few negative comments on whether there’s a large enough market or the ability for mom&pop dog walkers to afford advertising costs, I think anyone can make a go of things if they have the right mindset – which you clearly have.
You will only get a clearer picture after a site is developed. No amount of number crunching and analysis will replace getting your hands dirty and finding out by developing a site. The site looks great by the way and I even checked out similar names on British and European extensions – what is popular in the USA eventually takes off in the UK a year or so later. Every domain has gone so the market even in Europe looks to be buzzing right now too.
I was thinking if I could add any further ideas for marketing that hasn’t already been mentioned. I’m not sure if this is too way out but I’d probably be tempted to look at the dog clothes market – in particular doggy waistcoats. Hi visibility waistcoats are pretty cheap and you could easily have them printed with DogWalker.com on them. The select advertisers who you allow on for free could do so on the understanding that they use the waistcoats, in effect giving you walking adverts around the city. …call it Dogvertising if you like.
Good luck with the new site.
Would you mind sharing what platform you had this built on?
Thank you in advance,