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Optimizing Lowell.com

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I thought I would give an update on the progress of Lowell.com. While I launched the site publicly a couple of weeks ago, I have been working on many content updates, adjustments, and additions to optimize the site for search and to promote stickiness. In the past two weeks, the site’s ranking has grown quite a bit (probably because of the new content), but there is a long way to go until I am satisfied. I am not in a rush to generate advertising revenue, so I don’t plan on soliciting advertisers until I feel the site is ready. Although I have had inquiries, I am planning to wait until I believe the site is optimized and ready to roll.
While I haven’t been able to stick to this religiously, my goal has been to add a page of content just about every day to grow the site. It is much more manageable to build a new page a day rather than becoming overwhelmed by adding many pages at a time. Doing this also gives me time to think about different topics of interest in Lowell that might be searched to help drive traffic to the site. I used Aaron Wall’s Keyword Tool to do the keyword research, and I also used Google News results to help me find other topics of interest. Also, I used the tool to purchase a few domain names of keyword strings that were unregistered – such as FrancisCabotLowell.com, and I forwarded them to appropriate pages within the site (thanks to Rob Grant for that suggestion!)
One thing I am very much against are having user reviews on the site. Although it will presumable increase stickiness and site awareness, I don’t want to have to police user comments. If three people post a negative comment about Joe’s Steakhouse, I don’t want to be responsible for making sure the comments are legit and not Joe’s competitors. I don’t want to deal with the legal liability that a forum/review site could pose – at least not right now. Perhaps when the site has grown it will be an option, but I decided against it for now.
I recently added a news section which uses the WordPress blogging platform. I’ve been told blogs are looked upon favorably by Google, so frequent news updates should help the site with ranking. Last week when I was in Lowell, my fiancee and I were enjoying a coffee at a sidewalk coffee shop and happened to have a nice conversation with the patron at the next table. It turns out he is the band director of the city high school, and the band had just returned home from a competition they won in Virginia. Of course, that was a great story that I blogged about – complete with two YouTube videos. While I won’t become a “source” for most news articles, I will write about the happenings in the city that would be of interest to residents and visitors.
I also added two neat features using feeds from other websites. GasBuddy.com has a feature that allows me to create a page with a feed from their site to offer local gas prices in the city. On the Lowell Gas Prices page, I have the ten least expensive gas stations in Lowell listed, and this is updated daily. Additionally, I used the three day weather forecast from iBegin.com and paired that with a chart of monthly record and average temperatures on the Lowell Weather page. While I have a small weather widget on the home page, I hope to drive some traffic from people looking for weather records or a longer weather forecast for the area.
I met with city officials in Lowell, and they didn’t seem keen on the calendar I envisioned. Since they have been building a main city calendar that will be utilized by non-profits and governmental agencies, they asked me to not list those types of activities on my calendar. Their calendar will have RSS capabilities, so I will link to those instead. Additionally, I will be listing various business events – such as happy hours and live bands at local night clubs. This will enable me to link to the Lowell ticket site as well and hopefully generate revenue that way.
Whenever I visit another website (large or small), I always look for ideas that can be adapted to Lowell.com and eventually Burbank.com and Salinas.com. The goal is to drive traffic to the site, and encourage people to return by giving them a reason to come back (gas prices for example).
I will get into a revenue generation discussion more in a week, but ideally the site will be optimized before I go out and solicit business. When I was in Lowell, there was strong interest from the few business owners I met, and I told them I would be in touch. I want to make sure the product I am offering meets my standards before trying to sell it. I want to give advertisers a reason to advertise on Lowell.com other than the fact that it’s Lowell.com (which isn’t a good reason). I want to be able to say, we are #1 for the term “lowell,” #2 for “lowell restaurants”….etc. We aren’t there yet, but that’s what we are working on at the moment.

Listing Domain Names for Sale on My Blog

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Due to the considerable number of inquiries about listing domain names for sale on my blog (most frequently from people I don’t know), I’ve decided to allow it. If you are interested in listing a domain name for sale on my blog in a blog post, there will be a non-refundable listing fee of $250 per domain name. This fee will include your write-up about the domain name and will include your contact information. I am not a domain broker, so there is no commission for selling your domain name on my blog.
I do maintain the right to reject any domain sales requests that aren’t appropriate for my blog (blatant trademark violations for example). For further information, drop me a note. Depending on the response to this, the fee may increase at my discretion.

Making Defensive Registrations

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People usually thinking of defensive registrations as buying various extensions when they own the .com, buying the plural version of their domain name, and/or buying the common typos of their domain name. For really important domain names that receive strong traffic, doing all of this and forwarding all accidental traffic to the main domain name is advisable.
Sometimes you have to do more than this for your defensive registrations, even when you probably aren’t even going to develop the domain name. For example, I recently announced the acquisition of CelebrityBabyPhotos.com. I bought the name because more and more celebrities are being paid big bucks to gossip magazines for the rights to the first exclusive photos of their babies. To help protect this domain name, and to also increase the value of the package, I also recently purchased CelebrityBabyPictures.om.
Individually, these are both strong names, but I believe the value of the two names together is greater. No matter whether people are searching for “celebrity baby photos” or “celebrity baby pictures,” I am covered.

Where's Elliot?

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Sorry for the light posting this past week. I have been in New Hampshire and Lowell, Massachusetts doing research for Lowell.com. Now that the base of the site has been built, optimizing it for search has become the main priority. This involves going through each page, changing meta tags and anchor text to make sure each page can be seen and read by Google. Not so much fun, but a necessary part of development. Hopefully the fruits of this labor will help with the ranking of Lowell.com.
Once the website has been optimized (although I think it will be an ongoing process), I am going to begin seeking advertisers. In my visit to the city of Lowell spanning a few days, I met some business leaders and city leaders, and I was warmly received. I hope they saw my passion for this site, and I have really taken a liking to Lowell. My goal is to make the site mutually beneficial for the city, its residents, its visitors, and the businesses who will advertise on the site.
For now, it’s back to the optimization process. I should be back to blogging next week.

Deal of the Day – CreditReportTracker.com

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I saw that CreditScoreTracker.com currently has a pre-auction bid of $2,500 at the DRT Live auction. In that respect, I would like to offer CreditReportTracker.com for just $1,000. I think these names are fairly comparable, but I am happy to give a great price to sell the name. First person to post “sold” in the comment section of the blog gets the name, which is registered at Moniker.

Great Coincidence in Lowell

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I just had a great tour of the Whistler Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts led by the museum’s curator. As a history buff and art lover, the museum tour was great, and I saw some nice pieces of art, in addition to making a new friend and contact in the process. I am planning to do this type of thing quite a bit to meet people who live in Lowell and to learn about the city of Lowell so I can make the make Lowell.com a useful resource to residents and visitors.
In the process of the museum tour, I met the artist in residence, who is a very friendly lady and a talented painter. After I introduced myself and told her about my website, she let me know she would check it out when she had a chance. She also told me she planned to check out another city .com website for an upcoming visit to her daughter who lives in the midwest. Since she had never been to this city, she wanted to learn about the history and about some of the art related places in the area.
Incidentally, the city where her daughter lives is Nashville, Tennessee, and of course she plans to visit Nashville.com, owned by the Castello Brothers.   What a small world!

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