I am frequently asked what it takes to have a successful Geo Website, and I think there are many aspects of this. As far as I am concerned, the number one thing is to have the primary domain name, as it breeds trust, can open doors for advertisers, requires little or no explanation, and it helps with SEO. This said, there are other factors that can contribute to a great Geo Website.
Tourism – People want to learn about many things in a geographical area. Some people are looking to visit and they will want to know travel information such as hotels, train schedules, flights, museums, activities, and other tourism information. Where it’s possible to do so efficiently and accurately, process tickets and reservations, as this will be “sticky” and bring the visitors back again. Use affiliate relationships where necessary/possible – especially if you can’t do this on your own.
Local business – Many visitors to the website will either live in the area or be looking to move to the area. You should provide local information such as restaurant listings, service companies, and other business information to make it easy for locals to find things. Use your site as a local would – ie searching for a real estate agent or taxi, and make improvements where you need it.
Events – Event listings are great because it’s content that’s given to you by organizations who are acknowledging your site’s reach. This is an opportunity to engage local organizations and businesses to discuss mutually benifical trades. For my sites, I am a media sponsor of a number of local events in each city. It takes time to build supporting pages, but it costs very little and builds your brand. Visitors also come to the site to find this information.
Unique Content – To get better rankings on internal pages, you need to have as much unique content as possible. Long tail keyword SERP position is important, as this will drive non-direct traffic to the site. If a Google-searcher is looking for a park in the region, you should rank in the top 10 for it. Unique content will help boost your rankings. It may cost more, but it’s worth it.
Good Site Architecture – I am not a SEO expert by any stretch, but I know it’s important to set up your site to enable Google, MSN, Yahoo, and other search bots to crawl it. The site should be easy for people to navigate, and it will generally be just as easy for bots to navigate and rank your site. This will help with your site’s SE placement, which will drive traffic. A successful Geo Website can’t rely alone on search engine rankings, nor can it alone rely on direct navigation traffic. Both are possible and likely if you start off on a good footing.
Build Your Brand – With a city .com name, you are already miles ahead of the competition since you essentially own the brand. If you don’t own the city .com name, you need to do whatever it takes to get your brand out there and to build community awareness. If people don’t know about your site, they probably won’t find it.
Photos – People want to see where they are going or moving, so it’s important to have great photographs. To save copyright infringement and legal trouble, I would recommend hiring a photographer from the area for a couple hundred dollars and give a list of photos to take. Make sure you work out the details about ownership of the photographs. I used Craigslist once with success and once with a bad situation (don’t ask). In the end, I found that my photographs and the photographs I had a friend take were best.
Social Media – One of the newest elements of great geo websites is the social media integration, where comments are allowed, people can post links on Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, forums, and other interaction. The more visitors are engaged, the more they will visit the site and advertisers. They will also help you determine what should be added to the site or removed.
When you have a great geodomain website, you own the city virtually. While the city/region might not like it, they realize that they can either become partners or enemies. I have a decent relationship with my two biggest cities, and although we aren’t working hand in hand exactly, we do have a good relationship because they know our goals are aligned.
Based on experience, I wouldn’t recommend meeting with city leaders until your site is launched completely and has a large following. However, I do think that working in conjunction with the city has its advantages and can be beneficial to your site’s success.
I am sure I missed some things here, so please pass along your feedback. The next topic (I think) will be monetization.
tourism, tourism, tourism.
while I’m still building out my sites, I think that building a non-tourist geo portal is infinitely more difficult than a tourist location.
And having a sales person knocking on doors is the most important piece of all…..
City sites can be great money makers.
I would add functionality for user generated content in the form of reviews, comments, even photos. For tourism, Trip Advisor has set the bar but soon reviews will be ubiquitous and expected to be on any site that lists restaurants, tourist attrations, etc. People are often passionate about their city and/or travels and they will help you fill out the content over time.
I would add one important factor that is commonly overlooked in GeoDomains: Bilingual sites (or, better yet, trilingual).
Often tourism is a very (if not the most) important factor in a “location” (city, town, region, country, etc. ). A high percentage of your site’s visitors may be foreign, therefore, having your page in the local language and then, at least in English is a very good idea.
Please, do not use, canned / automated web site translators. While this tools may be useful for a quick understanding of a foreign language web page, it is not meant to be a good translation of such web site (not yet, at least).
Hire a professional translator or, at least ask for help to a bi-cultural individuals (notice I said, bi-cultural, not bilingual -only-).
Why is that? Unfortunately, at least in the Spanish-English arena, there are many people that, while can communicate in the “other” language, certainly there make mistakes, an example:
“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” should be “Harry Potter y la piedra del filósofo” instead, it was translated as “Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal”. Wrong !
“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” should be “Harry Potter y la cámara de los secretos” instead was translated as “Harry Potter y la cámara secreta”. wrong !
The meaning of both phrases in Spanish in the exampes above, are totally different ! .. unfortunately accepted by the general public (ignorance?).
The final context and meaning is incorrect in the “official” translations, just because of this subtle differences -and errors-, made by a -so called- biligual, instead of a truly bi-cultural person.
I see this every single day in many web sites I frequently visit, also in the TV counterparts, in movies, even books and magazines.
My 2 cents. Hope to see you in Amsterdam and talk a bit further about this interesting topic related to GeoDomains and certainly to ccTLDs.
Kind regards from Mexico City.
Great suggestion – and I agree. Lowell and Burbank both have a large % of non-English speakers. I actually added a Google Translate page to my site. It does throw off the formatting a bit once translated, BUT, if someone needs information, the format is less important because I am able to give them what they need in their native language.
See this page: lowell.com/translate-this-site.php
I own the following 2 ccTLD (from Guatemala) and also GeoDomains
antigua.com.gt and tikal.com.gt
Antigua is online and running, I tried using google Translate before on this site and it became a real mess. Translations were plain wrong and the resulting pages were pure trash, nonsense, not understandable.
Now it is Spanish only, the english version is in the works right now.
Tikal is not out yet. Soon it will be online.
We are doing a professional translation job on both sites so the two of them will eventually end up Spanish (local language), English, French and Portuguese. All these languages based on site statistics and traffic analysis but ALSO some research as where from the large number of tourists come to this places.
Probably falls under the “content” section, but local news items are good magnets. Stuff about local companies, community projects, government actions, local human interest stories.
True… news is important. I want to be careful though because I don’t want to become a news outlet having to report the bad news – which might impact tourism, and there’s a fine line between between providing some news and censoring other news.
Great list Elliot.
Some YouTube videos would be great content too.
The other elements of a successful geo website…
direct advertisers 🙂
Thx… direct advertisers are for the monetization post.
Videos are great for a few reasons.
great post. thanks.
I own kochi.com, under development now. I have given importance to real estate and tourism. what do you think about adding forums & chat on geosites?
create a site or blog to your niche is rather important if want to drag more traffic.
Great post and useful tips, some of which I hope to use for my own geo sites.
I have 30 city and region exact .coms for Peru and a further 100 which aren’t the exact .com. Cities and regions ranging from 10,000 population up to 600,000.
I have been monetizing with adsense, but am getting a meagre $350 to $400 a month in total (primarily Spanish language sites).
I’m seeing opportunities to get considerably more by selling banner advertising and links to local businesses, especially hotels But it takes more time, effort and organisation and frustration!