Its been over a year since I developed my geodomain names, including Burbank.com, Lowell.com, and Newburyport.com, and although I’ve shared quite a bit about my development efforts, I’d like to share things I wish I had done that I will try to do on future projects. As the song goes, “I wish that I knew what I know now…”
1.) Used a content management system like WordPress or Joomla. This would have made updates much quicker and easier. I could publish articles immediately or have them post some time in the future. I could easily add new features and functionality using plugins. There are just too many advantages to a CMS to name.
2.) Determined each site’s identity before launch. Newburyport is a small town, but they have 3 newspapers. I should have focused entirely on tourism and skipped the news content. On the other hand, there aren’t enough local news sources in Lowell or Burbank. Based on what you determine your site’s focus will be, that should dictate the layout and design.
3.) Chose who will be writing content and how often. I either write my own news articles (mostly about special events) and publish press releases from local organizations. This takes a lot of my time, although it drives a considerable amount of traffic. Before you start, determine if you will be the writer or if you will hire journalists or copywriters. Even posting press releases is time consuming – especially without a CMS. Weigh the traffic reward vs. the effort and figure out how much its worth to your site to have regular, fresh content. Keep in mind that people want to read interesting things related to the community, so it’s probably not wise to hire a copywriter who doesn’t know the area. Additionally, there are probably legal issues with re-writing a news article from the local paper – especially if it’s a smaller city with one newspaper.
4.) Met with local newspapers in person. It may have been mutually beneficial to meet with the local newspapers in the cities where my sites are located to see if we could work together to promote each other’s site. With my non-tourism names where I don’t write news articles (or don’t plan to write them) I would want to offer their RSS feed links on my home page (opening in a new window), in exchange for links back to my sites. I don’t know if this effort would work, but meeting in person is usually more beneficial than an email exchange.
5.) Used a calendar system that publishes events on its own pages. I started with a calendar that lists all events on one page and has popups when you hover over a date. This didn’t allow indexing in Google. I should have worked with calendar software that did what I needed out of the box. I am still having some issues, although they are being addressed.
6) Allowed businesses to create listings in Yellow Pages or manage their listings. I opted to hand code the Yellow Pages content (see this example for Lowell Yellow Pages) instead of using a database. I didn’t allow businesses to sign up or edit listings automatically because I didn’t have any experience in this area and didn’t want spam or to have to worry about processing payments. Now that I am more comfortable with this, I am regretting the decision to do it the way I did it.
7.) Been more aggressive about hiring a sales person. I was very passive about hiring a local sales person and didn’t make a great effort to hire someone. I had someone in Lowell, but a few days after he agreed to work on the site, he had a family emergency so things didn’t work out. Needless to say, I am not nearly making as much money as I should be making, although it’s in the 4 figures a year for each site (except Newburyport.com) right now. I have been far too passive about hiring a local advertising representative and/or seeking out advertisers on my own.
8.) Bought domain names in cities in which I am more familiar. Lowell.com and Newburyport.com were good strategic buys. I will probably be moving to the Boston area in a year or two. Burbank.com was a good domain acquisition, but it’s not as easy for me to get out there as often as I should. Lowell and Newburyport are a few hours away from me by car, and about 45 minutes apart from each other.
These are the most important things I can think of when considering what I would do differently. Hope this helps you as you begin or continue to develop – or as you are looking to buy a geodomain name.