Feedback Request

I’d love to hear some feedback regarding one of my projects,, a website that helps dog owners find a local dog groomer. The site has been live for a year, and it isn’t gaining the traction I would have expected (fewer than 20 paid listings).

For starters, was built using the same platform/theme I used on, a site that’s had over 800 paid listings in the last 2+ years. The content is entirely different of course, but I made nearly the same efforts for both sites in terms of SEO, social networking, marketing, and outreach. Search volume is greater for dog walking keywords, but it’s not all that significantly different.

One conclusion I’ve made is that dog walkers can generate more business per lead than dog groomers, so they may be more willing to spend $49/year than dog groomers would. However, there are plenty of dog groomers who advertise on Google and on other local publications, so I don’t know if this is valid.

Traffic for is about 5x that of, and I attribute much of that to significantly more content and better search rankings. IMO, the rankings on should be higher to drive more traffic and interest.

I would be grateful to you if you would be willing to share your thoughts on how I can make more successful.

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. I think you started at the wrong point. Search volume is not the right metric, potential customer base is.

    Without doing any research, when I think of dog walkers tI think of a job that many regular people do. You don’t need any special skills, training, etc… to do this. Dog grooming on the other hand I picture as being a fully fledged business. So the target market for dog walkers is much larger.

    Also, dog walking occurs more frequently than dog grooming, so a potential customer will probably offer more repeat business for walking than grooming.

    If you want to target grooming I would pay someone to scrape the web to find dog grooming businesses and then I’d send them out each a letter about how your site can help them. Put something lumpy in the envelope so that it doesn’t look like junk mail and they will open it (this is a trick I’ve used frequently and very successfully).

  2. “when I think of dog walkers tI think of a job that many regular people do. You don’t need any special skills, training, etc…”

    @ Chris

    This is true, but almost all of the companies who advertise are official businesses rather than individuals who want to make extra money. It seems a lot of pet sitting companies are advertising on since they also offer dog walking.

    I’ve done a big online marketing effort, reaching out to companies and individuals to let them know about the site. Most advertisers come from Google and cite that they saw a listing or the site ranking very high for the term as the reason they signed up.

  3. One of the biggest own your own business plays for unemployed workers is mobile grooming franchises. You could probably get $200 a year each for a section that offers become a dog groomer then you could expand the traffic to the site by being in business opps and franchise searches. I would think they’d take banner ads as part of what they do to justify the franchise fee is advertise and deliver leads. THe other offer that I’ve used that’s a big hit is a gift certificate. A way to a man’s heart and wallet is through his pet. Send Fido a truck with wash and treats on Valentines day and that’s a great gift.

    Then again you could just sell the domain to any of the leaders- or they are doing good but could do better, with less ad costs with your domain.

  4. @ Owen

    I have no need to sell it. If I ever sell or, it will be to someone who acquires the entire business, including those names and All 3 sites generate great revenue, although I wish had more paid listings.

  5. I’m getting SQL errors for smaller cities (under 31k) with the search function.

    What city list are you using in the database?

    Warning: mysql_query(): supplied argument is not a valid MySQL-Link resource in /home/doggroom/public_html/wp-content/themes/classipress/functions.php on line 225

    Warning: mysql_num_rows(): supplied argument is not a valid MySQL result resource in /home/doggroom/public_html/wp-content/themes/classipress/functions.php on line 226

    Warning: mysql_close(): supplied argument is not a valid MySQL-Link resource in /home/doggroom/public_html/wp-content/themes/classipress/functions.php on line 231

  6. I’m not sure if this plays into it at all, but dog grooming is something you do 1-2x a month at the most. Most people who use dog walkers require their services several times a week or more, so a dog walker will potentially get a lot more work out of a new client than someone who only sees them once a month.

    Also, dog walking is kind of a personal thing – you’re trusting someone to come into your house when you’re gone, and entrusting them with the care of your dog (in some cases feeding them and doing routine tasks like bringing in the mail). In my case, my walker has a key to my place – so the interview process and relationship formed with her is MUCH different than with the groomer.

    Mobile grooming isn’t huge in my area, so most of the groomers work in boutique dog stores or places like Petco. In that case, you’re going to a local business, and dropping your dog off for an hour – there’s still an expectation of quality and a relationship there, but it’s way different than the expectations and demand placed on a dog walker, in my opinion.

    One thing I like that the DogGroomerDirectory site does is that it detects the visitors’ locale and displays the page with groomers in my area. This is good for groomers who may be looking to sign up, because the first thing they see is all the competition.

  7. One thing I would look into is past use of the domain. If there was content on it before you acquired it, it could have either attracted/generated a different kind of links (different topic, spammy links, etc) or have been penalized for some reason. In that case it could be an uphill battle.

  8. The point I was trying to make in my post was that it’s possible that people don’t research and fret over dog groomers as much as dog walkers. I was extremely picky when researching dog walkers and doggie daycares for Izzy (I checked all of their Yelp reviews, websites, and checked them out in person), but I basically went to the first dog groomer I saw in one of the local dog bakeries.

    I could be establishing a correlation where there isn’t one, but based on my personal experience, there’s a difference in trust/value/risk there.

    If you owned a Poodle or show dog, I suppose grooming would be way higher on your list of priorities.

  9. Hi Elliot,
    Thank you for the idea of doing paid biz listings! I’m going to try that on some of my local directory sites. I love the idea of 800 paid advertisers x $50/yr. Definitely helps diversify from adsense.

    Here’s my advice in return – do your competitive research.

    For example, ranks #2 behind Petsmart when I search for “dog groomers”. They also offer paid listings at $9.99/month. But when I look through several state and city listing pages in the footer I don’t see a single featured listing. Unfortunately, that suggests no one wants to pay (or possibly their system is broken).

    I’d recommend looking at a few more competitors to see if this example is a fluke or not…

  10. I typed Nova Scotia into your Search Box and it doesn’t even appear as an option… Certainly that has to be one of your biggest issues 🙂

  11. One factor could be that the tough economy is having a greater deleterious effect on groomers than on walkers; in that people are much more able to cut back on grooming than they are on their dog’s need to “use the bathroom.”

    You can generally wash, clean, etc your dog yourself if you have to.

    But you can’t walk your dog if you’re at work or otherwise not available to do so.

  12. Elliot – while it may be companies who advertise on dogwalker, besides a business card what else does someone need to form a dog walking company? It could be regular people, stay at home moms, etc…

    I really think you need to focus on offline marketing to get customers. I can’t imagine many (if any) people have sent a proposal to dog groomers to get listed on a site. You’d be first to reach them through an offline mailing campaign. Sure, it is costly if you do a ton of mailings, especially if you add something lumpy because the post office will tell you that your letter cannot go through the automatic sorter and you pay additional, but if it works then it is worth it.

  13. ~ First, I would co-brand your four sites in the top header of each site with text and small logo because they are all relevant… it’s a way to send cross traffic to each., DogPark, and

    ~ Security code on the sign-up page is really hard to read.

    ~ Maybe move the sign up form to the top of the page (registration)

    ~ Reword “Advertise” tab with “Register” or something along those lines. Advertise may come across wrong to somebody looking to get a listing.

    ~ Find A Groomer page could use a better look. Looks unprofessional currently. Maybe add a similar search box to what is on the home page.

    ~ Lack of listings hurts I’m sure to get others to sign up.

  14. Excellent replies.
    I think that directories of paid listings just work for some things and don’t work well for other things. My personal opinion is that it works when people looking to buy service really do their research before hiring someone. For dog groomers, like others have said, people may not be doing enough research. Then it’s a commodity business where businesses do not advertise for the same reasons producers of oranges do not advertise.

  15. @ Jamie

    I appreciate your insight, but all of what you mentioned is exactly the same on, and there have been no issues getting advertisers. I agree that I should consider doing better co-branding. I do advertise in the header of with a very large banner since those are more related than

    I agree with your last comment entirely, and found that as I was gaining advertisers on, other advertisers signed up more quickly. I also agree that the find a groomer page needs some work.

    Thanks for your feedback and others, too. Looking into all this.

  16. There are no entries under most popular cities (listed at the bottom) and state pages. If I were a user I would get frustrated. Although I understand you would rather sell listings at the same time you want more visitors to the site looking for groomers which in turn helps sell listings. I would at least put a few in each major city and/or state so visitors can actually pull results and groomers can see their competitors already listed.

    I see no newsletter which would be a good tool to help bring visitors to the site and maybe alert them of new groomers in their area.

    The drop down menu on the search box is confusing. I understand it pulls from a city database but if I were a user, I would assume that it pulls from available groomers (groomers listed already on the site) and if I did not enter my city correctly or come from a minor city, I would assume there are no listings. At the same time, if I was from a minor city I would probably want results nearby and not just in my particular city.

    When I click on a “Popular Searches” city, I expect search results and not a page of content (although the content is not a bad thing, it’s just not what I believe a user would expect).

    With another client who had a directory I was able to pull location based on IP and we pull results automatically by state. It saves the user a step.

    On another one of your sites I know you have a rating system plus comments. That might be a good implementation especially for a groomer who wants to use the page as testimony.

    Overall what I think hurts the site most is that it feels desolate from the popular cities / states areas and when the user searches there are no “nearest cities” results returned.

  17. Elliot, just go to a Dog/Pet trade show and set up a booth. Make sure you have an iPad on hand for instant sign ups. Go to the market and don’t wait for the market to come to you. You will be fine.

  18. Overall, it’s simply a lack of listings and content. There are just 2 listings in all of New York! 1 listing in Seattle, etc…

    And the lack of cities…you are missing out on millions of visitors and probably thousands of dog grooming businesses.

    Just go to and type in “dog groomers”, “dog grooming” and see how many you are missing.

    The site looks pretty but it’s really just an empty shell and it’s not giving any value to a visitor landing on it.

  19. I agree with @Scott – there’s not enough content and that begets not enough content. I appreciate that you started the sites the same and they look the same, etc., but for whatever reason, the dynamics worked for one and not for the other.

    I don’t know much about the topic, but a quick search yields numerous other dog groomer sites that seem to have plenty of listings. Not sure how many are paid, but at least a few seem to offer free listings (at least basic ones). Gonna be hard to compete as an empty site on a paid-only basis with other well populated sites that are free to the providers.

    What comes to mind is to formulate a two-tier pricing scheme: a free basic listing and a paid premium listing. Then I’d pilfer contact info from other listing sites and send them a free offer email.

    Once you start getting more listings (which could take a while), then you may be able to do better in organic results because visitor usage will look better to Google which will lead to referrals to the providers which may lead to more provider sign-ups which leads to more providers upgrading to premium listings to stay at the top of the list. virtuous circle-type thing.

    fwiw, that’s my 5 minute analysis.

  20. You guys gave me an idea…

    My company is an affiliate of PetSmart’s. I am going to create listings for various PetSmart locations on When people click the website link and make a purchase, it will generate revenue. More importantly though, it will help populate the website. It’s a start…

  21. 1.
    Put this in the menu tab: “Are you a Dog Groomer? Click Here”


    250×250 image advert on the right hand side at the top. To say something like this on the image advert:

    WARNING:Calling Dog Groomers! Do You Want More Business/Leads ?

    Get More Dog Grooming Business for as little as only 15 Cents a day!
    Click Here Now to Find out More.

    3. Find out your conversion and split test 6 different page layouts on this page.
    It’s your “MONEY PAGE”, your most important page on the whole website. Split test using google optimizer the different signup forms / layouts. Find the best one for you. The current one has a lot of potentional to be improved.

    Couple things I found after 5 minutes.

  22. 4. Just had a look at your keywords.

    Try and rank no.1 for keywords like “dog grooming advertising”, “dog grooming advertising ideas”
    That is the people you want to target as they are the ones with money in there pockets and wanting to actually advertise.

    And other keywords associated with actual dog grooming business owners, which they might search on google for. e.g. dog grooming brushes

    5. Go to training providers like and put on a demostration on how they can market their business online in 2012 and then at the end push them to advertise on your site when qualified.

  23. What about trying some real marketing…how about getting interactive, do you have a facebook page tied into your pet businesses? Have you considered a contest for people to nominate their favorite dog groomer, you could easily tie into your other sites to help generate some excitment, then you could have this as an annual award, give them a free listing etc, what about a photo contest for who has the most trendy grooming studio, or pet friendly studio, then once you get the info and photos, send out the winners info as a press release, hit the winners hometown hard for a feel good story, etc and syndicate via a lot of free pr sites as well, animal stories when good seem to always get picked up, what about a feature of the craziest experiences when taking a pet to a groomer (maybe even a video, im sure they are out their : )

    my point is this, you gotta think a bit different, directories are like a dime a dozen, everyone is pitching their value, biz owners get hit every day with cant miss marketing offers, etc…but if as a biz owner I am surfing online looking at my competitors, reading news, etc and I stumble on info for your site, for a minimal fee I probably would give it a shot

  24. @Elliot

    1) Thanks for disclosing what you gross a year on DogWalker, and very impressive btw.

    2) I think DogWalker was a better targeted domain. For Grooming I think that, or would be the top dog so to say. DogGroomers is very specific and if a customer who Grooms “Pets” wanted to make a listing you probably have a competitor you don’t know about that is already providing this service. When it comes to walking, DogWalker(s) is best because has a completely unrelated connotation, and nobody walks cats.

    Amazing how the same idea on 2 different domains executed the same can have such dramatically different results. Logical assumption would be it has to be the domain.

    Also, check for competition, there may already be a defector grooming directory that you are competing with, whereas sounds like for DogWalking you are the defecto directory.

    My 2 cents.

  25. I’ve had trouble signing on small businesses like dog groomers and salons to any of my services as well. My friend at living social says it takes them generally 10-15 contacts with 1 small business like a dog groomer to make a deal.

    If you have the time I’d consider three things:

    1) I’d try to offer a free groupon type system where you give a 5% discount code or something. Marketing a “free groupon system” to the groomers might be easier than marketing a directory lsiting.

    2) I’d consider making it a free directory for 6-12 months just to get your foot in the door with them. I’d also add them on my own and email them with a link to their listing when their “free membership” is about to expire.

    3) I’d try to hit the dog groomers that are already on things like groupon and directories, probably more likely to sign up with you.

    Just my thoughts on the matter.

  26. For what it’s worth, most of the veterinary hospitals in my area (including the one I use) also offer dog grooming now, to augment their revenue.

    You might try targeted advertising to Vets.

  27. recommend getting list of licensed groomers (presumably they are licensed by state) adding them to directory ‘free’ for now.

    Offer local animal shelters some sort of incentive to make note of directory, and thereby referral to local groomers in their newsletters. Maybe suggest to shelters to contact local groomers to generate a sponsorship of the shelter in their upcoming fund raising efforts. Then slip your domain name into the co-sponsorship position for such fund raising – cause marketing never hurts

  28. Hi Elliot

    If you look at the google cache of your site you have 55,600 pages indexed. So the majority of these will have no unique content (no listings).

    Details here

    Google has also indexed a whole lot of pages from your jobs.subdomain that seem irrelevant eg Truck Driver jobs, Maid jobs eg,+CA

    Get rid of these. Slim down the number of pages which are indexed.

    I would also suggest you get greater variation in your Description Tags if you can (tedious but worth it) as they are almost all identical.

    Google hates puffs like The Best in Description Tags, so I would change that too.

    Most important of all, I believe that you should seed a new directory with at least one (initially unpaid) entry per page eg per town, per category etc, otherwise it’s a fairly poor user experience. Write nice things about businesses who are already prominent. Send them some traffic. When that page has gained some standing in a year or so write to them and ask them if they would like to continue with the entry now that the free period (which they may not have noticed in the first place) is over. If you have sent them visitors, then you can demonstrate the value and many will renew.

    If they don’t, then by then you may have more paid listings to take their place.

    Hope this helps


  29. Could it not be that as far as I’m aware it’s two separate ideas. Dog walkers I’d imagine would be people wanting to make extra money, not teams/companies. While groomers I’d imagine was salons with fixed overheads who would do their own SEO/own online marketing if they thought it was worthwhile. People probably travel from a reasonable distance if they found a grooming place that they liked while for dog walking it’d be silly to travel far.

  30. I would also survey the dogwalker paid people and see how they heard about your site. See what it actually working best for converting into paid customer and see if it can be reinforced and scaled up, the traffic sources that convert the best.
    Or add a script to the register page or a line in the signup form asking where they heard about your site or came from. For both of your sites. Valuable information.

  31. How about using a service like or which lets you add a pop-up chat window to your site?

    You could have the chat window up only when visitors reach certain pages (the register page, or the home page, or site-wide). That way instead of just guessing why people aren’t signing up, you could actually chat with your visitors live and find out!

  32. sorry for the late reply – been meaning to take a peek when I had a few spare minutes. As far as on-page goes – Mark is right on, it’s definitely something to work on but I don’t think that’s your problem when looking at differences between the two sites.

    The main problem is the usual suspect – links. can support more pages and better ranked pages. Here are some high level #s – first

    total links: 67,000 vs 230,000
    linking domains: 33 vs 166
    linking c blocks: 27 vs 116

    So raw numbers are way off. There’s also quality. Top links on DW:

    Top links on DG:

    Hope that gives you an idea of where to focus if you want to have similar success on

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