Jeff Libert – Local Search Interview

For this interview we’re going to be talking to Jeff Libert aka Webwork.

Hi Jeff thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, for my readers who may not know you could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a middle-aged, happily married father of two, New Jersey lifer. Since fellow Jerseyites reference one another by their exit- as in “What exit are you?” – I will tell you that my exit is #2 on the NJ Turnpike.

When I’m not in domain-mode I’m a self-employed attorney practicing in the area of civil litigation and jury trials for twenty-five years.

I got my start in domains in late 1998 when I tired of paying large sums for yellow page ads that were showing decreasing returns on their cost. In early 1999 I put up the first of my first law practice website and dropped my full page ads in the local phone directory. The results, in terms of client leads, were immediate and favorable. Giving some thought to the future of search I decided that it would be a good idea to acquire a few more “my website address is named for what I do and where I do it” type domains. For example: LocationTrialLawyer.com. That worked even better.

I altered my domain strategy late in 1999, in part due to a need to spend more time at home to care for a sick family member. I began exploring the idea that “logical, generic web addresses”might build traffic and therefore serve as the foundation for an online advertising and marketing business, one that I might operate out of my house. I focused on generic industry vertical domains (HomeHealthAides.com, etc.), generic directory domains (BusinessDirectory.com, etc.), generic export-import domains (IndianExports.com, ChinaExports.com, etc.), and several other categories.

In 2001, Web 1.0 was blowing up and a number of people began dumping their domain holdings, I didn’t lose faith and kept accumulating domains at a steady pace. In 2003-2004 people once again became enamored of dot com and many starting selling their “lesser valueless” dot org domain names, which proved to be another buying opportunity. In 2005 I discovered the benefits of domain parking. 2007, for me, will be about domain development.

Thanks, let’s pretend that you’re not involved in Internet marketing at all just for a moment, what types of local searches do you find yourself doing?

Very few, when it comes to local searches for local service or product providers. An exception might be when I’m searching locally for unusual products or services – such as a custom cut replacement mirror that I needed to repair a medicine cabinet. When it comes to local-to-local search the search engine results tend to be clunky and picking up the yellow page book or visiting an online directory still works better in many cases.

I don’t have a great deal of faith in local review sites since there’s not a lot of transparency online. (Is the reviewer the restaurant’s owner, sister or cousin?) Therefore, when I’m away from home I tend to talk to the locals about eateries and I’m not shy about asking a number of people, understanding that the same bias that may play out on review boards likely plays out in person . . but I can get a better read of the vitality of the review by asking a few more questions and observing all the other “I know what I’m talking about and believe what I’m saying” clues and cues that you don’t get on a review message board.

I do engage in a bit of local-to-remote-local search when planning travel adventures. For example, when I wanted to rent a powerboat in the Caribbean so my family and I could snorkel at all the best spots, I drilled down into geotargeted boat rental information. Local-to-remote-local is a bit more useful than local-to-local simply because I don’t have access to the same utilities (yellow pages, local newspaper, etc.)

I’m a big fan of your posts on WMW how to make $100,000 a year on local search and Does your Business meet the Billboard test are classics that everyone should read. Do you think it’s too late to get into the local domain market or do we still have room to grow?

Considering that I spent the last twelve months aggregating a new portfolio of approximately 2,500 geotargeted domains I’m inclined to say that the answer is “it’s not too late”, but – just like 1999 – it’s not going to get easier as time passes.

Actually, I was a bit baffled by the fact that so many decent, geotargeted, high PPC traffic acquisition cost, direct navigation domains were still unregistered as late as the end of 2006. I’m talking about local professional service provider domains. I’ve been posting about this value proposition for awhile and it appears that many folks still aren’t seizing the opportunity. At the very least I would think that local web designers or local web marketers would be snapping up such domains for present or future customers.

At the local level I still target dot com domains as I believe they will continue to benefit from the higher levels of type-in traffic than other gTLDs. I think that type-in traffic is some of the best traffic for driving traffic that converts . . but that’s a discussion for another day.

For people who are looking to build out domains centered around local search what do you think are some key elements that can help make a project successful?

Demographics: I target larger cities first. High PPC traffic acquisition costs for the imbedded terms: CityLawyer, CityMortgage, etc. Simple geotargeting of the domain keywords: City+Service.com, State+Service.com is likely the easiest and best strategy. It’s a no brainer. Also, don’t be afraid of longer domains IF the value of the sales lead is considerable. Think CityCosmeticDentistry.com, CityCustomCabinets,com, etc.

Registering a geotargeted domain for less than $10.00, which domain pulls in 2 type-in visitors a year – of which one visitor converts to a customer yielding a business a $100.00 or $2,000.00 profit – is sort of an obvious strategy, don’t you agree?

Apparently not, at least judged by the outcome of my domaining efforts during the last 12 months. I just picked up four more domains last week that just should not have been sitting there, unregistered, if people were giving any thought to the future of their advertising and marketing efforts.

Where I think people are falling down is in their failure to grasp that the inherent value – I say “true value” – in type-in domain traffic is to be found in the converted client-lead value of the domain, not in the PPC value of the traffic. That thinking was reflected in my thread about the $100,000.00+ click. What is a domain worth that will yield 5 clients in 5 years who will be paying the service provider $5,000.00 each for his or her services? Is that domain’s value to be premised on the cost of five $2.00 clicks or is that domain worth some part of the future revenue stream? My hunch is that the market will wake up to end-user converted lead value at some point . . so make your move now.

I know you’ve got some great names that you’ve made some nice profits on, but I’m sure you’ve picked up a few clunkers along the way, what are some tips for picking out the good ones and staying clear of the bad ones?

Clunkers? Moi? Absurd! Alright, registering all those ‘zine’ domains and not catching the current that ‘blog’ would rule . . at least in the early rounds . . leaves me feeling a bit like I missed the boat.

My advice has always been to focus on commercial or business grade generic domains. Industry generic words or phrases. In the past I might have argued for people to take their time but with “domain tasting” taking place in million domain lots each day I’m not sure that advice holds. Also, when I began domains cost $70.00, not <$10.00, so the risk is much less.

I’d say follow the general business advice: Work with what you know. If you know art then explore art domains, not mortgage domains.

Some part of domaining is about prediction: What will stand the test of time and what will emerge, so one needs to stay alert to emerging trends in commerce. That said, I’ve yet to register my first .mobi domain since making a domain “platform dependent” is not a guarantee of domain dominance. Any domain can be mobile standards compliant. For those who don’t quite get it I suggest they do a bit of research about life in Korea and other parts of the world that have managed to have active “mobile lives” without waiting for the arrival of .mobi.

Let’s take out our virtual crystal ball, what do you see for the local domain market in the next few years?

I see it heating up, considerably, as local business operators and local service providers awaken to the advantages of geotargeted web addresses in marketing and lead generation. BobsPlumbing.com will awaken to the idea that CitynamePlumbing.com and other variations drive customers and leads. In that case all Bob need do is register or secure the localized domains and permanently redirect CitynamePlumbing.com to BobsPlumbing.com. That is unless Bob wants to build some additional business traffic by making CityPlumbing.com a bit more of a general public resource by providing local plumbing code information, local code official’s office info, notices of local road openings, a few friendly and free ads for his favorite plumbing supply house, etc.

I see the advertising market for local search terms heating up, in which case those businesses that benefit from type-in traffic will be grateful for their foresight and their business competitors will be gnashing their teeth.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today Jeff. If you’d like to get in touch with Jeff you can contact him at DirectoryCompany.com, you can also follow his postings over on WMW, and if you ever get the opportunity to attend one of his sessions at conference don’t miss it, I learn something every time I catch one.

 

Tags: local+search, , Jeff+Libert

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