Jul 12th, 2009 by Richard
Let me share something with you that might not be obvious. Suburbs of big cities are good candidates for domain development. I’ve found that they are generally under serviced which means businesses are more likely to consider internet advertising, there are less competitors for the advertisers and you need to use less resources to market to a suburb versus a big city.
So for the rest of us guys who don’t own NewYork.com, SanFrancisco.com or Chicago.com the market is still wide open to develop geo domains. Get out there and buy some suburb domain names and develop them!
Here’s my checklist of what I look at for domains with development potential.
I use the google adwords tool and search for several things.
1. I search for exact matches of my main keyword. In the Canada version of the tool, Oakville shows exact matches of about 15,000. Anything more than 10,000 is interesting to me.
2. I search my main keyword again for phrase matches. For Oakville I get 1.8M. This is an important number because it gives you a pretty good idea of what the long tail is going to be for Oakville. A number over 1M is very interesting because you are going to be able to rank for thousands of long tail terms containing your main keyword. Ranking for the long tail is easier and your visitors are more targeted.
3. Next I add the Estimate avg. CPC column and sort that column from highest to lowest. I am looking for CPC above a buck and lots of them. This tells me that there are advertisers already paying for phrases containing my keyword.
Now that you know what the long tail looks like for your main keyword, you have a good idea of the types of content and number of phrases people are searching for. If you don’t have 25 or more phrases with hundreds or thousands of searches each AND high CPC then don’t waste your time developing the domain.
Watch Your Demographics
I’ve seen plenty of great suburb domains at auction or on sales lists that look ripe for development, except for one problem. Their demographics suck!!
Don’t overlook this one, folks. If your demographics are bad then your advertising revenue will be low. You’re developing the domains to make advertising revenue right?
I use government sites, wiki and a variety others sources to check the following:
1. Population - I like cities with populations in the 100,000 to 300,000 range. There are exceptions, I know.
2. Income - Household income in the 6 figs is best but above 60K is also fine.
3. Housing prices - If the income is high then housing prices will be as well. More than 300K is a good target. Check local real estate sites and see how many million dollars homes they have listed!
4. News reports - Check the local newspapers, google news and topix for a few weeks and see what kind of news is coming out of your town. If there’s lots of crime reports, don’t develop it. You’re going to be reporting news on your geo domain site, too, who wants headlines with crime all the time? Advertisers sure don’t! Remember your sales rep is going to be on the street selling to local advertisers, do you want to worry about crime in the town?
5. Special events - What special events does your town have? Summer festivals, popular local sports teams, maybe a PGA tour stop or a pro football team? Events are very important. Promotion of them makes your site part of the community and keeps visitors coming back.
6. Sports - Don’t over look your sports teams. Even if your town doesn’t have a pro football team, does the nearby big city have one? Maybe there are 3 pro sport teams in the area? That’s great news because the pro sports teams will advertise with your local site for ticket sales and promotion of their special events.
You’re going to want to see who’s lunch your are going to eat and how long it will take to outrank them. For geo domains, you’ll want to see if there are other city guides ranking in the top 10 for your keywords. In the case of Oakville, we have the local government sites and wiki and the local Chamber in the top 10. So no other city guides to compete with, sweet.
If you did have other city guides ranking then you need to look at the following:
1. Search google with the site: command to see how many pages your competitors have. If it is more than 10,000 pages, you’ve got an uphill battle.
2. Search yahoo site explorer with “linkdomain:domain -site:domain” from 1. and see how many back links your competing city guide has. If they’ve got more than 1,000 backlinks AND the first couple pages are from trusted sites like .edu sites, nytimes, fodors, tripadvisor and sites like that, then don’t develop the name. You’ll spend too much time and money trying to outrank them.
[NOTE: The yahoo search above is going to show you all links to all pages of the domain whereas link:domain just shows you links to the homepage.]
You’ll also want to search google for “keyword” and allintitle:keyword and allinanchor:keyword to see how many pages there are. This will give you an idea of the broad competition for your main keyword.
Who are your potential advertisers? Just like demographics, this one can make or break you. Who cares if there are 10,000 businesses in the city, you want to know how many of them are spending money on advertising. This can be tough to determine. Here’s some things that I look for:
1. Search google for a few of your top keyword phrases and see if there is more than one page of LOCAL advertisers.
2. Does your town have more than one yellow pages competitor? Oakville has 3 of them and I am sure your town does too.
3. Have a look at those yellow pages and see how many FULL page advertisers there are for your top keyword phrases. Is it more than 20 for dentists, restaurants, hotels, car dealers? Those full page ads cost hundreds per month. You’ll find that once you meet these local businesses and show them that you have more traffic and that traffic is highly targeted for their business, you’ll earn their business too.
So there you have it. I have used these methods over and over again to research domains for full scale development. Feel free to post comments with any questions, I am happy to answer them.
[This article is PART 3 of a multi-part series sharing an inside look at the start to finish development of a city.com domain. Future articles will cover content generation, automation, SEO, linking, revenue, ranking and more]