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.