Some background information first (added: July 2009)
Hi. Thanks for checking out this thread. I'm an absolute newbie when it comes to making websites, internetmarketing and SEO. I joined Netbuilders in December 2008 just after I started to built this site I am writing about. Basically, most of the techniques I'm using, I learned here on Netbuilders.org and at various other places on the net and like to share the experiences I had and will have.
Hope you will enjoy it!
Monetizing on a local niche: Taxi Business
There are many ways to earn money on a local niche. This post is about just one example -my own project- to monetize on a local niche from a webmasters’ point of view. It will go a little bit beyond having a website with advertisements and doing SEO as there is some (local) offline work involved as well.
Some advantages of working on a local niche website, especially if you are located in or near the area yourself:
- Possibility to explore and investigate the area.
- Writing content based on information from local (free) city magazines and other sources of information.
- Taking images for your site of any object from any angle yourself without having to worry about licensing and copyrights etc.
- Meeting local business owners.
- Online competition might be minimal.
- Local offline advertising.
One consideration could be that there may not be enough customers to keep your project viable. More on this later.
The website I would like to use as an example here has been up for review earlier at Net Builders. I started this project just over a month ago and now -about once a day- people inquire for a local service. In fact, people are requesting a taxi ride in and around the city I’m currently staying. It's about Antwerp in Belgium.
What are local internet users looking for and what are you looking for ?
There are many keyword tools available, some of them discussed here on NB but I simply used Google’s external keyword tool along with the Google Traffic Estimator to get an idea about local searches amount. It would go beyond the scope of this article to discuss keyword research but here are some considerations.
When entering the targeted city name -in this example Antwerpen - in the tool, the resulting keywords may look like this (Antwerpen is Dutch for Antwerp):
hotel in Antwerpen
bed and breakfast Antwerpen
At this stage, I would recommend to look for exact search terms as this can also help in choosing a domainname for your website. Broad searches can be done later when doing SEO for you site.
You will see that there are many keywords -like hotels Antwerpen, taxi Antwerpen- that can be associated with local businesses. My experience is that Google does not display all keywords that are actually searched for by internet users, even if there are significant results (I would like to learn why). For example [restaurants Antwerpeny] did initially not appear in my results but somehow you know it is unavoidably that people do use these search terms. Some ‘new’ keywords appeared in later searches as well. So if you suspect results for a certain keyword but don’t see them, just enter it in the input box or check back later.
Selecting a subject
There are many considerations when choosing your subject from the results. Personal interest can be one of them as well as a more economical motivation.
From the results of Google’s keyword tool, I choosed ‘Taxi Antwerpen as in this case it seemed to have one of the better ratios of Avg Traffic vs Advertiser competition. In fact at this time it had about 1000 exact searches a month with average advertiser competition. Another consideration was that I wanted to buy the domainname [keywords].be or at least [keywords].com. The ‘.be’ was not available so I took the.com (Just put TaxiAntwerpen in front ) I guess at this time it will be a matter of trial and succes and see if there are going to be enough customers through the site in order to keep it viable. 1000 exact searches don’t guarantee anything and I suspect only a small portion will go to the site even when ranking #1 for the selected term.
Creating the site
I created a simple template with the help of xsitepro and wrote some content based on information from the local news and other sources. I also included General Information, Pricing Information, Phone numbers of taxi companies and Contact and Privacy Information. Then, I submitted a link to relevant local websites and directories.
The most influencial step was adding the website to Google’s Local Business Directory. The Local Business Directory shows up as the first result next to a local map on the first page of Google results. You will have to add a telephone number here as well as your physical address and other information.
- Minisite with 5 pages including Adsense (thanks Will and Charles for the given adsense feedback).
- No significant SERP, mostly 2nd page for main keywords on different local Google’s homepages. Some inbound links.
- About 10 visits/day, adsense $0,10/day avg.
- Average 1 phonecall a day of someone wanting to order a cab.
Note: Until I find a driver, I temporarily removed the entry in Google’s Local Business Directory in order to avoid disapointed customers and wasting their time and phone credit when calling me.
What needs to be done
- Create better Site content
- Better SEO
- Looking for a driver or a taxi company that can accept the taxi requests, then try to get even more requests. This may generate some small revenue but most of all would be a good selling point.
- Also wants: the Country Code Top Level Domain for this project and a local server.
Useful site for visitors
Rank #1 on search engines for term ‘Taxi Antwerpen’.
More visitors/high CTR.
Sell the site/domainname + customers requests to a local company or,
Keep the site if generating sufficient revenue.
The next step should be an overall better site. It will take some time to get there and I would like to write a follow up so this article will finally cover everything from the beginning to the end of the project.
Do you have a local site yourself? How did you decide on the subject and how does your project generate revenue?
Last edited by Loko; 23 July, 2009 at 10:10 AM. Reason: update to actual keywords
Loko (16 February, 2009)
Thanks for the link Andrew, that was just the information I've been looking for. Indeed, its a must read.
Still need to visit the local library myself to get some demographic data for the area I'm currently staying in and come up with some new ideas.
Small update and some details (just over 2 months since the project started):
- The website is now ranking on the first page (pos#5-9) of google.com/.be/.nl which was an intermediate goal.
- At the moment there are avg. 6 visits a day. Adsense so far about $6 so its not paying for hosting and the domain renewal yet.
- The link to my site is included in few relevant directories. Only one of those links has been indexed by google so far (actually only couple of days ago). Interesting enough, one of the pages is ranking #3 on google for term 'Telephone Numbers Antwerp' (in Dutch though)
I have to make some pages in English as well in order to be able to submit to relevant travel directories worldwide. I'm only submitting a link to relevant directories (travel/transportation etc) at the moment.
I still have to find a driver or a company that wants to take at least 1 ride a day but I am waiting just a bit more until the site ranks better.
I expect more then 1 call a day for a cab ride:
- when the site is ranking higher in the SERPs
- when I place a phone number on top of every page of the site
- when listed again in google's local directory on the first page
A dedicated phone number will be used so I know it will be for business when I answer . Just to provide good customer service.
So far it has been an excellent learning experience. No matter if it will tun out to be profitable or not, its feels like building a foundation for something bigger.
Last edited by Loko; 23 July, 2009 at 10:13 AM. Reason: actual city name inserted
A friend has a local website which is entirely about his local town, and he does pretty well out of it. It's monetized for Adsense and from an Adsense-earnings point of view is one of his most successful sites.
Local town/city sites generally do very well indeed provided its a decent site, especially if you own the cityname.com or cctld.
If someone wants to follow such a project online, I would like to recommend reading Elliot's Blog | Domain Investing News & Commentary as he is developing 2 citynames.com and writing about it.
Yes, it seems pretty important to have the location in the domain name. What surprised me was the variety of Adsense ads. that he gets on his site. I expected to just see ads. for local businesses, but there were some big international names advertising on it.
I run Dumaguete City - Negros Oriental - Apo Island - Siquijor - Philippines - Dumaguete
Dumaguete is a smallish city in the Philippines where I lived for a year or so, before moving there I did not find the information about hte city I needed, so to fill that gap and to make some local connections(which is very important here) I started this website.
Now, 3 years later the site ranks in top for just about any Dumaguete related keyword.
On the traffic side it is one of my better sites, but CPC and Ecpm is pretty low on Adsense, but I have a bunch of offline advertisers on the site to make it up for lower Adsense earnings ...
The local advertisers though, is a lot more work than slapping on Adsense and getting a check automatically every month.
Dumaguete seems like a good place to be, does it have an increase in tourism?
Probably the local advertisers aren't sure whether their potential customers actually use the internet, that might be why it's difficult to sell advertising to them yourself, ie. sell advertising space on your website to them.
The reason I mention this is, this friend of mine who has a local website had the same problem.