My jaunt into Geo’s

Morning folks! Over the last 4 weeks I have pretty much being having fun developing a little geo area in the West of Scotland so wanted to share my observations.

Initially I bought Arran, Ayr and Largs – I then remembered I own westofscotland.co.uk so decided to use that as the umbrella domain to link to them all from. I also picked up a few others all beside each other and all small but touristy kind of places on the coastline to make a little set of 7.

Minisites: I have seen a lot written and said about minisites which strikes me as sweeping statements, if you look at www.largs.co.uk that’s a minisite. Minisites are evolving, Largs cost me under £200 and for that I get a theme on WordPress, research is done and around 7 to 10 articles are created without my input. It’s then all put together with work on descriptions, tags and keywords, after which I added some feeds for extra pages, but it pretty much ticks all the minisite boxes.

To say minisites are not worthwhile, useless or will not give you a return on your investment is like saying “websites” are not worthwhile. Websites like minisites come in a variety of flavours and if done well can be very worthwhile, but they can be crap and a waste of virtual space if done poorly.

I am negotiation for an established but tiny tourist location in Scotland with a population of 1500! the owner has had the domain/site for 12 years, it makes £3000 per year. He hasn’t updated it in years but wants it to go to a good home, I offered £2700 and was rejected no surprise, he wants £5500 which is a fair price, after showing him Ayr.co.uk & Arran.co.uk he has agreed to sell the site to me below his £5500 valuation as he wants it to go to a good home and likes what I am doing. So these new minisites have value that other’s can see.

Feeds: I know pulling in feeds doesn’t add traffic/real content but from a user experience it makes the site more appealing and complete, adding twitter, pictures, video, jobs, weather, property, events and games gives a better user experience from the off. I have tested this on people who work offline and have had good feedback. I am however looking down the line a bit to find a local estate agent to offer their feed exclusively for a fee.

Links: One thing I have noticed is asking for links for the generic place name .co.uk seems very easy with positive replies. I even emailed the local council and asked for a link on their .gov.uk which was up and live within 30 minutes. Emailing others sites who do info on the places often gets a quick “Hi Scott, that’s been done now” which is very different from dealing with product related sites, the exact match generic domain maybe helps or maybe geo sites are much nicer to work in when it comes to sharing links.

Some local hotels & resorts have link & info pages, I decided to make sure when asking for a link from them I email the PR & Marketing person, not the webmaster. Not only did I get a link from them I also got a typical reponse from the marketing person asking about the site, “is it new and how much for a homepage advert?”, much better than me asking them to advertise.

Twitter: I created a twitter account and followed quite a few people who mentioned the areas, in some cases people mention they are about to or have just been to the town. This seems a good opportunity to ask for user submitted content and I have a couple of people who have agreed to write reviews based on me contacting and posting on Twitter.

I have to say I am enjoying these sites, some are in development or live but under month old, they are starting to bring in around 50 visitors per day each. All in all a good excercise and a good set of info minisites that I feel have good potential to generate income. If someone can make £3k a year from a population of 1500 then the towns with 10k or 40k I also have should offer opportunity once established to earn their keep.

About Scott Jones

Scott hails from the north east of Scotland and started earning online at the end of 2000 building websites for local businesses during which time he won an award from Lord Alan Sugar for Excellence in Enterprise. After having quite a bit of success with domaining Scott mainly runs educational evergreen websites which generate over 3 million visitors per month but is always on the lookout for a fresh thinking out of the box way to turn a buck. Follow on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Interesting ideas about using twitter for additional articles and information. I think that it’s a perfect example of interacting with people with a common interest.

    Did look at my town’s UK domain, but currently parked on Sedo, where the minimum offer is set at £2000. Too much for me at this point in time.

    Dan

  2. I’ve been working on a similar project over the last few months picking up some geo domains, slowing starting to get data on them now, using WordPressMU on them all so can manage them as one central site.

    • Do you need a dedicated host for wordpress MU Adam? Can certainly see the advantages of having one set of base code.

      • I do happen to have a dedicated server, but you don’t need to I don’t think, the setup is slightly different with a shared IP with other users as I think you have to set a CNAME record instead of an A record or something, sure it’s possible though.

  3. Wow! That looks awesome Scott. Also an interesting idea that you can get people and public offices to link to you since you’re not (really) promoting a product.

    Mikael

  4. Can you tell me who you used to develop the sites? They’re quite nice! I really wasn’t expecting much at all, but am rather surprised.

    My thought with community sites is that you need at least a few common components: local events, weather and user contributed news/reviews. Yours’ seem to have all but the last. It will be interesting to see how successful they are if they remain somewhat static.

    • I would like to know that as well. Especially if they have been doing the feed pulling as well. I am already imagining doing the same in Denmark. :)

    • News would mean I’d have to be more hands on and not zero maintenance, places like Arran are tourist destinations so hoping to generate visitors from tourists and tap into that side more than locals. I have another 4 domains lined up ready for the person making them and they can take a couple of weeks so I’d rather keep her busy and not publicise who I use for now :)

      • Are you using anyone specifically for the content creation, or is it the same person doing the development?

        • Same person, I chose from around 40 theme’s, she gets the content researched & written by someone working for her, put’s it together with design work and tags,keywords & plugins are all done so it’s completed by her. I then added twitter and the feeds for property,pictures, weather etc for useability.

        • I’d be interested to know who this person is Scott. An idea of how much she charges would be great too.

          Dan

        • If I order 3 or 4 at one time it’s costing about £150 per site. Once she gets caught up on what I am wanting done I’ll ask if she is happy for me to post her details.

        • A great example of outsourcing. Sounds surprisingly cheap, I take it that the quality is excellent?

          Dan

        • I need someone to design wordpress headers for me. I can do plugins, keywords and content etc but my sites look frickin crap and need a bit of an overhaul!

          Post up the details i a coupe of weeks if she is happy with that. My sites could do with a womans touch (as could I…)

        • The case for outsourcing just become stronger imo. Employing good people on a professional, pay per job basis is just so much better than having 9 – 5 people who aren’t really interested.

        • The case for outsourcing just become stronger imo. Employing good people on a professional, pay per job basis is just so much better than having 9 – 5 people who aren’t really interested.

          I agree with you JacquesSnyman

  5. Great update Scott. I’ve been waiting to see how this pans out for you. VERY interesting to see how your request response rate is high. That is fascinating. I guess local businesses in todays economy will bend backwards to help their other local businesses. One to look into for me I think

  6. Well, for me doing the development is the easy part – it’s the content creation that’s difficult. I have yet to find a reliable article writer.

    • Justin, check out Need-an-article.net

      They have some really great writers and you can get articles from about $5.52 (up to 550 words).

      I’ve ordered hundreds of articles from them and you will quickly find the best writers and work solely with them.

      • I’m a little skeptical. Why do I pay the monthly fee if I’m also paying for the articles? Is it all automated? And why did it redirect to needanarticle.com?

        Can anyone else vouch for this?

        • The redirect must be new. Hadn’t noticed that. They have probably bought the domain after they originally had the .net one.

          I don’t know why you pay a monthly fee other than I believe that is where they make their money. I believe that the full amount you pay for the articles will go to the writer.

          If you’re only going to get one article the service is not for you but if you (like me) will need a lot of good articles the fee becomes insignificant.

          I’m not sure what you mean by “automated” but no I don’t think you can call any of it automated.

    • Justin, you should check out textbroker.com for content creation. Imho they are the best writers I’ve come accross. Not the cheapest but very good value.

      You can add specific writers to favourites list if you like them, then place direct orders.

      I tested them with some very tricky niche subjects and they were spot on. As quick as 24 hrs too.

  7. I know that buying a TLD domain will work better for these minisites, but what if it’s already registered but we still can get the .com domain? Do you think it can have the same success?

  8. Nice sites Scott! You mentioned asking people who had visited the areas to post/submit reviews on Twitter. Does this create unique content for your sites or would need to have them post reviews directly within your sites?

    • I use twitter to find them, follow them and if followed back consider asking them to consider writing a review for the actual website or their experience, they tend to think I am “Arran” or “Ayr” so working from the townname.co.uk seems to add trust.

      • I’ve been using twitter to try to follow people with similar keywords and interests and have been slowly but surely building up followers etc. I never even thought of asking them to create content for my site – that’s quite brilliant.

  9. Scott

    How do you know when a geo domain is worth getting? A quick search for ‘largs’ brings up lots of existing tourist information and local news etc.

    Is traffic mainly based on the long tail, or direct type-ins, or what?

    I’ve seen one or two free geo domains which might be alright but the places already have established presences on Google. Is it worth trying to start from scratch or are you only investing in established sites?

    Cheers
    -Laurence

    • It started with Ayr & Arran which have a wider appeal, but then I looked to secure a few of the local towns, being able to cross promote between sites and bulk sell advertising is my aim and reason for securing an area of sites/towns. You can certainly take on established sites from scratch especially for smaller places, long tail is always the best target.

      • Thanks Scott

        Do you think there is any value in, for example, .info domains? Given the content of such sites that tld doesn’t seem as undesirable as it might in other markets..

        • I haven’t used any info’s – they do tend to have a stigma of spam attached to them so I’d probably try com/cctld/org/net and then step away from the generic and consider a hyphen before going to .info

        • Scott,

          What is your view on .tv domains? Would your view depend on what the domain name is? i.e. http://www.friends.tv would be ok, but http://www.romanblinds.tv would be less powerful?

          David

        • I have never had or used a .tv David so not sure on how well they do, in the geo space having the country code tld would seem the wisest move but for products I would think tv or most extensions could work with the right content/age & links.

        • Scott

          Do you consider google search volumes (say from the Adwords keyword tool at https://adwords.google.co.uk/select/KeywordToolExternal) before considering a geo domain (that is, one which isn’t already developed and generating income)?

          I’ve found some and am wondering whether they will see enough traffic to merit purchase!

          Cheers
          Laurence

        • Not really, if people want to visit the ‘sundrum castle’ near Ayr they may look for a local guest house to stay at while visiting the area. That local guest house could advertise with Ayr.co.uk but none of that activity will show up in Adwords for the town name. With tourism being high on the agenda you only need a couple of hundred of visitors per day to be attractive to advertisers and so the normal rules don;t apply for me, of course this means lots of opportunity that others may walk away from. Small town geo’ names are still undervalued.

  10. I’m almost giving up trying to find any geo domains now!

    It seems everyone one I find is owned by http://www.any-village.com – We started off in 1999 by registering the .CO.UK domain names of over 15,000 villages in the UK

    They have no plans to sell them and try get local people to create their content for them, nice idea, but annoying for me!

    • Yes I’ve noticed the same thing. Those pages are annoyingly sparse, too – a minisite (at the very least) would be a great improvement

  11. Scott,

    On the largs site, what is the plugin that does the slideshow. That’s really nice.

  12. I just asked about a domain on sale – Tenerife.org.
    As a live here and have good knowledge of the place I could probably develop it really well but the owner quoted me €XX,XXX minimum!
    I think that is way too much given that it is completely undeveloped.
    Or is it worth that amount?

    • Nor really sure about .org values, but yeah for that price you’d want it to be kind of part developed in motion.

    • You’ll get the exact match bonus with the .org but what market are you aiming for (uk I guess). I’d prefer the .org.uk over the .org although personally I’ve never had an issue ranking .org .net in the UK.

      I’d typically pay 10 to 20 % of a .com for a .org

      Overpriced in my opinion.

  13. Very nice. I especially like the use of the Gazette theme (I’m using it on one of my tech blogs). I know this will probably set a few people off but mini sites rock. I’ve got about 30 up (with 90 in development) and they all make money. Are you going to flip Largs or build it into something bigger?

    • I’ll be keeping it James, part of a local set that I plan to build up. I agreed last night to buy a small established town website to go with them, population 10,000 – currently making £7000 per year, if I could build up the others in the next 2 years to emulate that it would be a valuable little business. With these sites you only really need to aim for a couple of hundred visitors per day to be successful.

      • Nice work. That’s a pretty impressive figure for a small population. Looks like diversification is definitely the name of the game.

  14. All good stuff – great names.

    You can’t beat the pure geo .co.uk domains. However,it is possible to build a profitable site on on domains like keyword+placename. Look at WestSeattleBlog.com, for example. As long as they are a .com or the ccTLD of the country where the town/city is, there is good money to be made.

  15. Javier Renzi says:

    What factors do you consider when choosing a geo domain? Population, tourism?

    I still couldn’t find any TLD extension, but I did find some .com that are free. Do you think it will work for a population of 1500 (most are in that range)?

  16. Actually, I have the same question. I’ve found a number of Canadian cities that I could get the domains for. Just not sure where to start…

  17. I am buying a small town domain (already developed) it has a 1500 population and a £3000 GBP income per year so I’d say as long as it was low maintenance that’s worthwhile. If it’s low on population (1000-20,000) then you want tourism/nearby attractions/sights to justify it imo. I am more interested in tourism while many others seek on a population basis. The B&B’s/guesthouses & holiday parks are big business and from what I have heard more is being spent online for advertising for these.

    • Ok, then one other small question. Once you’ve built the site, how do you go about acquiring advertisers. Do you actively solicit them, or do you wait for them to come to you?

      • New territory for me, I decided to buy a small top ranking site for one of the towns with established income – that will help me better gauge rates & interest and I can upsell between towns, 4 of the new sites are now top 20 in the UK so I’ll be formulating a plan and seeking the advertisers, really have to be proactive so will report back once I move it up a level, for now it’s been getting the domains and a little info aimed at tourists to get the sites established.

  18. The worth of twitter in geo campaigns is just becoming more and more obvious. The twitter neighbourhood watch application must be just around the corner!

  19. Nice post Scott. I’m currently working on a project for a french property estate agent. The idea of building and using minisites is an interesting idea, I’ll have to start looking at targeting the geo areas of cannes, nice, st tropez and the south of france. It sounds like an excellent opportunity to build a network of relevant sites which when rocking and rolling would also generate an extra income as well. Once again, great post and an excellent site.

  20. Hi Scott,

    Great post. Can I ask, how will you decide how much to charge for advertising and will you need to provide any stats to prospective advertisers ?

    • I am struggling with that side of it, I think I’ll offer a few packages, basic link, full page listing or banner. As mentioned I am buying an existing site and that will give me a better clue as to what I can achieve and charge, not sure for now to be honest!

  21. Hi,

    Took the plunge today into geo’s, bought a domain for a local village near me, more than I wanted to pay, but got for less than they wanted.

    Now got to decide some sort of business plan of how to recoup the loot.

    Really excited need to look at what to put on site and of course how to monitize as can not see much revenve from adsense.This is going to have to be a online/offline business.

    cheres

    kevin

    • Congrats Kevin, this & next week I shall be doing my numbers and seriously making plans on how to repay my investment so I’ll do an update post on my progress, let me know how you get on.

  22. I also just got a Geo site I’ve been wanting this for a few years and it dropped a few weeks ago so picked it up on a backorder for a few dollars. It’s a .org but it’s the town where I live. I contacted a guy that’s sellnig the .net of the same name and he wanted $2000 so I just saved a lot of money. The .com version might drop in a few months so would be nice to get that but I’m really happy with my little .org after watching this for years in the hope they would drop it at soe stage.

    • This actually raises a very good question – does the drop of the domain affect it’s ranking potential in any way? I just bought a dropped domain yesterday as well, I’d like to know how it’s going to progress.

      Any experience to share?

  23. How much traffic do you think you will eventually get from a mini site? I guess if you enough mini sites then every once in a while you get one that really takes off?

    • With a geo I don’t think it needs to take off John, as such, 100-400 visitors per day would be a success. We don’t need thousands a day in the geo’s. I bought an established geo site/ranked no.1 doing 400 visitors per day, that’s the aim for the new one’s and more than enough to tempt local advertisers….thanks for the local comment mate 😉

      • Thanks for taking the time to reply Scott. I’m currently getting around 50 visitors a day on my loft conversions micro site, but hoping to get that up to 500. Seems to have been stuck on 50 a day for months and no matter what I do I cant seem to get my Google rankings any higher. Anyway, must keep working on it – I’ll get there one day!

  24. Oh dear, silly me – just posted a comment with the wrong thing in the title, I was thinking it was the title for the comment. It’s been a long day and I’ve been to a BBQ and one too many pimms…

    Title now corrected – I’m sure you guys will understand!

  25. Scott – on the subject of traffic, do you see a drop around now while the kids are on summer hols? Things have gone a bit slow for me and Im hoping its just the summer break.

  26. Im glad to see you have had success with these Geo domains. Im surprised to see you were able to get such high ranking back links.

  27. Geo targeting is cheaper and easier to accomplish than targeting a .com, where the competition for even obscure keywords is really fierce. If you’re targeting local business, why should you be doing it via an expensive international vehicle?

  28. Scott –

    For largs.co.uk etc, are you using a special plugin for the excerpts on the homepage? They look really nice but I’ve yet to find a decent WordPress plugin that handles excerpts as cleanly (and attractively) as that.

    Cheers
    Laurence

  29. Hi Scott, I’m just wondering about the sidebar widget on the largs.co.uk site which displays the tabbed latest, popular and comments. Is it part of the wordpress theme or a plugin. If it’s a plugin, what’s it called? I’ve been hunting round for something like that for a while now.

  30. Hi Andy, it’s part of the theme so not a plugin I added. I think in the code it’s referred to as mootabs.

  31. I think the theme is gazette theme from studiopress.

  32. Just wondering if you used a plugin for the accomodation listings here –

    http://www.ullapool.co.uk/accommodation.html

    Is the same plugin that you are going to use for all your dircetory listings.

    Thanks
    Stephen.

  33. No the Ullapool was an existing site I bought – just upgraded it so those are just posts & pages in WordPress, no plugin on that site. The other’s will be a directory script.

  34. Has anyone got a decent WP plugin for accommodation/classified listings etc?
    I have a load of good sites I could develop up if I had a decent plugin.
    Or is there some way to merge a script with wordpress? if so where would you get such a script???

    Could do with a decent UK mortgage calculator for a couple of sites too if anyone runs across one – all the ones I have found so far are US ones or are multi currency but crap.

  35. OK, I’m jumping on the band wagon and about to register my first geo domain but I noticed the .com is available aswell as the .co.uk.

    Is it worth registering both?

  36. I´d second that.
    If you are looking for a town and the .co.uk is gone then .com, .net, .org will suffice – especially if a lot of tourism/interest is from outside the UK.
    I rank .coms and .orgs well ahead of lots of .co.uks for the same keywords on both Google.com and .co.uk.

    You can select which country you wish to target in Google webmaster tools too so all is not lost if some pesky domainer has the .co.uk that you really want!

  37. Dont just stick the same site on two domains though ie: domain.co.uk and domain.com as google will either disregard one or see both of the sites content as duplicate and therefore not as high quality for your keywords.

    Better to either 301 redirect one to the other or build two completely different sites, each with unique content. i have done this in my niche and it is worthwhile although tedious and time-consuming to keep rejigging the same content.

    You then need to develop (via linkbuilding etc) two sites rather than one though – double the work but you can potentially hold the top two spots on google rather than the top one.

  38. Thanks Scott and Andy, I have registered both .co.uk and .com!

    Building two sites around the same subject would drive me mad, think I will just 301 redirect (must google that to find out what it means!)

  39. If your webhost has Cpanel there is normally a 301 redirect option there – I´ve done it with one of my domains and I´m a newb so it must be fairly straightforward!

    • Just be careful with that option – the redirect function in CPanel modifies your htaccess file, and this can conflict with some webapps you may be running. It’s usually better to do that part manually.

      • I don’t run any webapps but I do write my own url rewrite code so it’s probably going to mess with that. Thanks Justin I will do it manually!

    • Another thanks from me for this as well – I knew about 301’s but never used them. I have some domains I need to forward but didn’t know how. Nice one.

  40. Thanks Justin and Andy, I do have Cpanel on my hosting and just found the 301 under “Redirects” I’ve always just parked domains before. Thanks for the tip! :)

  41. Scott

    What twitter plugin is it you’re using on e.g. ayr.co.uk?

    Laurence

  42. Hi,

    New to this site, great post here, loving the GEO sites you have created and its definately one to look at.

    The .org.uk’s still have plenty of spots going so im keepin my eyes peeled for a cracker

  43. Hi

    I have just purchased a couple of .org.uk domains that are geo related and will give them a go in the new year when I have finished a couple of other sites first.

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