The Lowell Project: Determining a Revenue Stream

In order to “pay the bills,” it is important that we determine how we will generate revenue for Of course there will be home page advertising banners, but there need to be other ways to generate revenue throughout the site. After reviewing many other geographic websites and consulting with several people in the industry, I’ve determined that there are a few ways to generate revenue:
1. Sell a limited number of business listings in each section of the website (restaurants, shops, lawyers…etc). Each section would have 10 premium listings available, and each listing would link to a full page on the website where the advertiser can provide a business description, upload pictures, offer discounts or give other information. Because the number of listings are limited, the price would be high for each.
2. List ALL Lowell businesses (phone number and address) in different categories of the website, and offer each business the opportunity to pay for enhancements to its listing. Using phpmydirectory, each business can add other information to their listing for a set fee. We would also provide an opportunity for the business to upgrade their listing to the top of the results page and add a category banner to stand out from the other businesses in the category.
3. Same as above, but instead of charging for the listing enhancements, we would allow each business to enhance its listing for free. Although this won’t generate revenue, it would add content to the website, which in turn would bring more visitors, giving businesses a reason to pay for upgrades and advertising.
4. Offer free listings throughout the website, and place Adsense banners and links throughout the site. While this would be the easiest thing to implement, it might cheapen the look and feel of the website.
After reviewing the options with my developer, I decided to choose option #3. I think this brings the best of all worlds to the website and will give businesses the most value. When people visit, I want them to find all the information they need. I want businesses to be encouraged to enhance their listings at no cost, and if it is free, there is no reason not to do it. This will give site visitors good information about many more businesses than if we had done it another way.
Down the road, we may work with affiliate companies for hotels and for tickets, but until traffic grows, I believe selling the advertising space to individual businesses is a better option. This option will also allow me to work directly with Lowell businesses, which should help me learn more about the city. Down the road, we may incorporate more user generated content opportunities (such as reviews), but for now, we want to start out small-ish and scale as needed.
***Updated by Elliot***
As we continue to invest in this website and our vision is developed, we may change the revenue model if it doesn’t work within our budget. At this point, everything is subject to change!

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. Elliot,

    This is a good post that details the different options for a directory model. I remember reading something by AhmedF (iBegin) about the best revenue model for local, and he basically said the same thing – free listings and charging for premium uprgrades is the way to go.

    I’ve had my eye on a geo in my local area for a while now so I’m following your progress on with much interest.

    I think the two crtical issues are:
    1. Getting the site traffic to a level that’s interesting enough for advertisers (assuming the direct nav traffic is fairly moderate or low)
    2. Getting the “offer” (of upgraded listings) in front of the eyes of local businesses — any ideas on how you’re going to go about that? I’ve thought about cold calling, direct mail, or possibly PPC — what are you leaning towards?

    The traffic is pretty strong for a site that wasn’t listed in Goog as of last month – a few thousand uniques per month, most of which is type in traffic. These numbers will only get stronger as the site is developed and content is added.
    With all of the content that is being added, as well as the many SEO (search engine optimization) strategies, traffic will increase. We will also be doing some search engine marketing, which I will get into down the road, as that plan has yet to be created.
    I plan to spend several days in Lowell around the time of the launch visiting businesses in the area. I will encourage them to enhance their listings at no cost, as there really is no reason not to enhance it. As traffic grows, I will make a broader push to encourage businesses to upgrade to paid banners. I will probably also do some courtesy calls to businesses to let them know they can upgrade their listings, and I might do a direct mail or postcard campaign. More on these tactics will be written about in the next few weeks.

  2. That’s great info — the direct nav traffic is stronger than I had imagined. That is a really good starting point!
    Any ideas on what types of upgrades you will offer, and the pricing?

  3. The directory is definitely the best option, easiest to sell etc. Once you get someone on board paying even a minimal $10 per month they will probably stick around for quite a while. To go to a hotel and say “if you sell one more hotel room per night this $59 per month listing pays for itself” is very powerful and logical. Get 10 hotels doing that and you have $600 per month from the hotel category before you even touch restaurants, retail etc. (of course, you can probably charge more than $59…)
    the real time status of this project is very interesting, and probably great linkbait!

  4. I think finding advertisers to agree as being the hardest part. Are you following any particular sales script? And would you mind sharing or pointing me to the right place. I’m doing this same thing my local domain as well by emailing potential advertisers. I’ve only managed to get 6 thus far.


    That is yet to be determined. I think email, telephone and in-person contacts will work best for this project. Once that aspect of the project is determined, I will be happy to share.

  5. Thanks Elliot,

    As an open question to all, do you recommend
    adding a classifieds section to a local website
    or would this require too much involvement?

    Thanks beforehand,


    I may do this utilizing affiliate relationships. For the first phase of, I think it would take too much work/time building.


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