As I’ve said numerous times, David & Michael Castello are two of my mentors (whether they know it or not!), and I have received great advice from them as I have developed my geo websites – at conferences, over the phone, via email, at dinner, and over cigars and ice wine at The Breakers…etc.
Every time I am with David and/or Michael, I learn something new, and I try to adapt their advice into what I am doing, usually with Burbank.com and Lowell.com. I’d like to share how I have used some of the tips and strategies the Castello Brothers were kind enough to share on my blog on Tuesday with my two geodomains. If you have questions, please ask because I am happy to share. Much of their tips and what I have done can be adopted and used for non-geodomains.
(I recommend opening another tab or window to follow along – I didn’t want to paraphrase or re-post from Tuesday – sorry.)
1) I enjoy traveling and I enjoy history, so geo domains were what I wanted. I grew up 30 minutes north of Lowell, and the city has a rich history. Burbank was more of a lucky buy (right time/right offer) and I love southern California.
2) Easy, although expensive. With all of the time and effort I put into building Burbank.com and Lowell.com, I wasn’t going to do this on anything but the authoritative domain name. Sure, I could have done it on .net or .org, but it would have only increased the value of the .com down the road. Also, it would have been more difficult to introduce myself as the owner of the .net or .org because consumers seem them as being less valuable and secondary.
3) When I set out, I decided I wanted to be more than just an info hub. I wanted my sites to become the place for people to get city information. That meant building many more pages, adding more features (such as reservation capabilities and a calendar), and building a business directory. Essentially, I built these sites for people who need any type of info about these cities. If I don’t have it or can’t provide the info, I have phone numbers, email addresses, and websites of organizations or people who can provide the info. I also was picky about the design, navigation, and look/feel. I wanted these sites to be THE brands for the area.
4) I probably write 2-3 pages per day and add several event listings. I signed up for nearly all local organizations’ newsletters, I get Google alerts for a variety of terms and keywords, and when I get new information, I post it. I also contacted UMass Lowell, and they send me the same sports articles they send to every major newspaper, so the site stays fresh and updated. New and important posts are added to the home page under “News” and I update the sitemap every day. This is good for search engine placement, good for visitors, and it drives traffic.
5) I have the advantage of owning the authority domain name, so people already trust what is posted. Based on keyword searches and other research, I have information about just about everything people want to find in each of these cities. I also continue to update the pages with relevant news articles. For example, the Lowell Spinners announced a Fantasy Kids’ Camp, and you can see how I integrated it on the Lowell Spinners page. Another neat thing I just began to do is interview well known people in the city of Lowell. I will continue to do this, and I plan to add this feature to Burbank.com very soon. This will help drive traffic to the site and hopefully lead to link backs on the organizations’ press websites.
6) I had Adsense up when I first started out with Lowell.com. I thought, “shoot, I might as well make a few $$ a day.” DUMB DUMB DUMB!! Not only is it asking people to leave my site, but they won’t even remember they visited it! I would rather be a source of information, and as I grow, I will be able to increase the technology to provide better services for visitors. I use WC Travel for the hotels in Burbank, so visitors can easily make a reservation, and it looks like my site. Everything from the site design to the confirmation email to the credit card bill says “Burbank.com.” Ideally, I will have the capability to make reservations without an affiliate, coupons for local businesses, and other things to build brand strength and make it more sticky.
I also don’t think Adsense really looks good, although I use it on other less developed sites. Adsense is a very short term and short sighted option. For websites with longterm potential, I think it’s best to forgo Adsense.
7) I have an events calendar, and I LOVE when I receive event submissions from local organizations and people. It’s a bit of a pain to keep it updated, but I know it’s used A LOT. This is a reason people visit the sites, and even if it’s the only reason they come back, I am okay with that. I don’t have a forum because if people don’t post, it could look stale, and I don’t want to moderate a forum and deal with disputes. I also built my own feeds and added them to my RSS reader (iGoogle) so Google adds my articles more rapidly.
8.) This is my most difficult obstacle. I get a considerable amount of submissions from people who want complimentary listings, but it’s tough for me to sell via email or over the phone. I will say that having THE BRAND makes it much easier, and it is easier to get in touch with decision makers when I call and say it’s Burbank.com or Lowell.com. David Castello is one of the most charasmatic people in our industry. David is the master.
9) BIG problem for me. I live in Manhattan. Burbank is a 6 hour flight and Lowell is a 3.5 hour drive. I just had a media kit put together, and as soon as I can, I will be spending several days in Lowell going door to door. Burbank is next in April. I wish I could hire David for this… or his team 🙂
10) I spend 5+ hours a day writing content, researching articles, and finding news stories for Burbank.com and Lowell.com. You have to be passionate about your project. I probably like Burbank and Lowell as much or more than most people who live there. I feel like I am the number one fan, and I am the biggest promoter. I am like the Chamber of Commerce. I speak with the local organizations, I happily promote their events, I am the “happy news.”
The local news has to report the violence, crime, and crappy stuff that happens. I don’t. I can talk about the good stuff.