I’ll begin this post by making it clear that I am not a GeoDomainer/Developer, this post is written by me, Morgan, as a guy who avidly uses the web to find things in the many cities that I visit. I spend at least one week every month in a city outside of the United States. When I’m in these cities I usually go to Google at some point before my trip begins and do searches for things like, “city_name hotels” and “city_name restaurant” and of course, my personal favorite “city_name bars.”
When I started traveling the world like a maniac seven years ago I found that most of Google page one was filled with regular websites. Now the landscape is changing dramatically and I’m now seeing Google’s own local places results followed by some of the biggest brands on the net. Here are a few examples:
Looking at the results for Los Angeles Hotels you can clearly see that almost all of the above-the-fold space is dedicated to Google’s advertisers, Google places results, and then a little site you may have heard of, Expedia. In general it is believed that less than 15% of search traffic goes to sites below the fold which is why above-the-fold space is so critical.
Looking at New York Hotels it’s a very similar story. Now I would like to point-out that NewYorkHotels.com and NewYork.com is still on the first page, but they’re below the fold which means they’re missing-out on a majority of the search traffic.
Now taking a look at San Francisco Restaurants and the top portion of the screen isn’t filled with ads, but Google places results still dominates followed by Yelp and OpenTable above the fold.
I do think there are people that are doing some very unique and innovating things in the GeoDomaining space and I’m more than sure that they’re doing fine and seeing their business grow. The people I’m talking about here are guys like The Castello Brothers and Elliot Silver who are absolutely innovating in the GeoDomain space and building real brands that will be around for a long time.
So who do I think is in trouble? It’s the long-tail guys and new Domainers that I think may have to be careful with their expectations around GeoDomains. I’m talking about the people who email me every single week and own domains like CityNameBars.com or CityNameRestaurants.com or CityNameHotels.com and have put-up a ten-page mini-sites and are waiting for their payday. From where I’m sitting, not as a business-person but as a consumer, I don’t know if their payday will ever come.
If you’re building a full-scale brand on a GeoDomain I think your strategy is solid and know that you can add serious value. If you’re not going all the way and building a real brand though I think the GeoDomain space could be a dangerous place to be. No matter how you slice it there is more search traffic than direct navigation traffic by a very wide margin. Getting above-the-fold for a popular search phrase will bring a huge amount of traffic, with Google owning the entire above-the-fold section of the first page for geo-related results means that they own that traffic.
Now for my open question to all of you. Once again I’d like to re-emphasize the fact that I am not a GeoDomainer, I’ve never built a GeoDomain and I’m not claiming to be an expert by any means. What I am saying is that as someone who uses the Internet a lot to find hotels, restaurants, bars, etc. in the cities that I visit I find that 99% of the time I’m never encountering a GeoDomain, instead I’m finding Google Places and Yelp to be the main destinations I land on.
Now it’s your turn, comment and let your voice be heard, are GeoDomains in trouble?