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shaneketterman
05-19-2010, 12:51 PM
Hi all,

Glad to be here and hope I can help others as well.

Here is what I am working on and would really value your feedback:

The business is an online directory for the IT Services industry. It is an interactive display listing so businesses can find IT companies. It exists for lawyers or doctors but not IT companies. There are major differences with mine and here they are:

* You can search for IT support companies by city, state, and/or business industry.
* The listings are full color ads that have interactive features like links to their Social Media sites, News feeds, Industry certs, etc.
* I will have on this site an IT Q&A. Meaning, you can go on there as a business, no sign up, and ask an IT-related question(s). Then, it would be answered by the IT companies with listings on the site! (gaining them a possible real lead).

This creates activity, it helps people with questions, and it gets the IT companies who are paying for a listing, engaged with the site. Everyone wins.

Here is the questions I'm looking to get answered:

1. What do you think of the idea in general
2. What do you think of the features I listed
3. Would this be valuable to you as a business as an easy way to search for an IT provider? And would it solve a frustration?
4. What would you love to see in this type of business?

vangogh
05-19-2010, 01:35 PM
Hi Shane. Welcome to the forum.

When I first started reading your description about the business my thought was you were setting up a directory, albeit one with nice features. I was prepared to say I'm not so sure how a standalone directory would work as a business model since most everyone would sooner search than browse a directory.

However I see your site wouldn't really be a directory, but rather a place people go to have their questions answered by IT people who also happen to be listed in a directory. That makes much more sense to me and seems like an idea that can work.

In many ways it's not going to be that much different than a forum for the Q&A (not that you'll set it up as a forum) with a directory for members who answer questions. I don't think I'd promote it as a directory. I'd promote the Q&A part. Once people have used the site and interacted with people I think they will search the directory, but I don't think the directory itself will be a draw to get them to the site in the first place.

Overall I do think it's an idea that can work. I have a few questions for you.

Why lawyers and doctors? Do you have an in with these communities to help make marketing easier? Do you see a specific need in these communities? My gut is telling me these two groups may not seek answers online as a first step. I could easily be wrong of course.

How do you plan on marketing the site and building the initial community. As someone who's been building a community here I can tell you it's a lot of work and very difficult in the beginning. Until you've gained your initial membership who you can count on to be there most days the community can be very empty, which doesn't encourage new people to sign up.

I'm guessing the business model will involve charging IT companies and individuals for being listed. Will you be paying them to answer questions? What's going to motivate them to spend time answering questions? True those that do will likely get more business, but until the site is thriving that may not be much. And any IT person who doesn't get much business may be more inclined to drop out than to keep answering questions. You're going to need to give the IT people some incentive to give their time.

The features like links to social sites and news feeds sound nice and I'm sure the IT people will like them. Will the lawyers and doctors care? I don't see them reading the news feeds or caring about the industry certificates. They might want to see the link to a social site, but probably only if they've reached the point where they want to hire someone and are doing some research.

I do think it could be an easy way to find an IT professional, but so would the phone book or a search engine. Will lawyers and doctors see your site as the go to place to find someone? I'm not sure it would be their first stop so you'd need to market the site well. You might have to accept that most people would visit the site to get questions answered so they don't have to hire someone, which would mean building up the site so it's large enough that there are enough people who are willing to hire.

shaneketterman
05-19-2010, 01:55 PM
Vangogh....thank you immensely for the feedback.

The lawyers and doctors was just an example of directories that are successful. Mine would be a directory solely for IT Companies....

It is true that people could do a google search, but have you done that lately? you get companies that are simply just lists staring back at you. and it takes quite a while to go through all those, clicking site after site. One thing I learned is that a directory, if done right, is useful in that you get all your results in one location that you can look through. Now that's handy!

I too agree about the forum. I came up with that idea for two reasons: one is to get people to the site and be able to provide value for them. The other is for the IT providers. They can see people asking questions and there is a pretty high probability that if they are asking a question then they might be seeking help...so I thought that might be a good way to help people "connect" :-)

vangogh
05-19-2010, 02:35 PM
Oh my misunderstanding. I knew you were building a directory of IT people, but I thought you meant you were targeting it at lawyers and doctors specifically.

I'll stand by my comments about directories though. You may find them useful, but most people don't. If the main reason you see people coming to the site is to find things in the directory I'm not sure it's going to be the draw to pull people in.


It is true that people could do a google search, but have you done that lately?

Yes, and very successfully I might add. When looking to hire someone locally a search engine is always my first and my last stopping point. I've yet to have to go beyond the first page of results to hire someone. For example I just searched "IT services boulder colorado" and without scrolling I see 13 direct links to companies offering IT services. And that's after I eliminate the few links from the University offering to teach IT. 13 links is no guarantee I'll find a company, but I'd be willing to bet one of those companies would suffice for most people searching in this area.

I think the compelling reason for someone to visit the site you're planning is the Q&A, and the community that will build up around that. The money can come from having people advertise in the directory, but you'll need to build up an audience that wants to look through and use that directory in order to attract advertisers. I don't think the directory itself will be the draw.

Even assuming the directory itself can be a draw, what's your plan for letting people know about it. There are already millions of IT directories in the search results with a big head start. Those sites are going to rank above yours so you need another plan to get people to the site before you'll likely be able to compete in the search engines.

Again I think you have a good idea. I like the extra features and particularly the idea of building a community around the directory. I simply think the community will be an easier entry point into the site for people than the directory will be.

Blessed
05-19-2010, 02:50 PM
Hi Shane!

Welcome to the forum - I'm in over my head here so I'll just echo what Vangogh said about Google - I do that, all of the time, and very successfully. However... building the Q&A part of your site is what will be the real draw.

That said - I have a client I do a bit of marketing work for (not her whole marketing - unfortunately! But I do the odds and ends stuff her regular designer doesn't have time for) Anyway - she has set up a directory - it's targeted to women in the local area and has become very successful. Here's a link if you want to check it out: Her City Guide (http://hercityguide.com/) her long-term goal is to establish the same site - in other metropolitan areas. These are the types of online directories that can be very successful.

shaneketterman
05-19-2010, 02:50 PM
Hello Vangogh,

Wow, this is exactly the conversation I needed! Thanks.

OK - so I have not yet seen an IT directory. I looked and looked but could not find one.

The way I will be found is that I can very easily rank for "IT support Boulder".....I've tested that and done it. I have great trusted backlinks and highly geotargeted SEO....but that's more technical. So, my site can potentially come up first in organic search, which is what I want. I have 4 pages of keyword research for long-tail and definitely can rank.....this would be a part of how I can come up when people search. PPC is another option as well as other social media-type ads.

I'm liking this idea, however, about building it around a community and using the forum....now this is something I had not considered!!!

shaneketterman
05-19-2010, 02:56 PM
Blessed.
I really really like that. And it seems farily successful. This is exactly the angle I wanted to go which is to provide a place for businesses to find good IT support while learning about their business, their brand, their social media contributions....

Has this site proven successful for them?

Blessed
05-19-2010, 04:13 PM
The site has been successful - it was a hard sell at first (it's about 2 years old now) but now it's a bit easier to get advertisers for. However - the reason she's been successful is because she is very aggressive about building inter-connected relationships with other media in the area - for example there is a local women's magazine that she's built a strong alliance with and a few of the local radio stations that she's been able to develop projects to partner with on.

This weekend she and the owner of the women's magazine are hosting a "Just For Her Expo" which is basically The Remodeling Show but for women - so there are purses, salons, designer fashions and gynecologists and etc... along with a bachelor auction where they auction off a date with a local celebrity bachelor - the proceeds will benefit charity.

At the holiday's she partner's with the radio stations and the magazine to do a "Holiday Gift Guide" that was very popular and very successful - but it's taken a ton of leg work on her part to get it done and make it happen.

Her vision - is for her website to be the local white pages for women so that we go there instead of to Google when we want to find something. Shoppers sign up with her site and receive a key fob member card that entitles them to token discounts at the member businesses - 10% off, $5 off a $25 purchase, things like that - but often it's just enough to get someone to try out your shop if they are looking for something in particular. It's basically a customer loyalty program that's ran by the directory instead of the individual businesses.

She is very active in social media and with local charities too - both of those things certainly help her out.

vangogh
05-19-2010, 07:05 PM
Shane did you add the word directory to your search when looking for a directory. When I do I see plenty. Also when searching IT support Boulder I get close to 12,000,000 results. Wrapping quotes around the phrase leaves me with 10 so there probably isn't as much competition for that specific phrase as it first seems.

I wonder though how you can have plenty of trusted links to a site that doesn't yet exist or is the site currently online? Sounds though like you've done your homework as far as the keyword research is concerned. What are you planning as far as content for all those phrases? If the site ends up being the same page or few pages over and over with city names changes you're going to end up with a lot of duplicate content.

Again though I do think you have a good idea that done well can be a success. I guess early on the trick is going to be to sign up the advertisers and build an audience.

shaneketterman
05-20-2010, 12:29 PM
Hi Vangogh -
Yikes, I'm glad I checked in because I did not realize you typed back!

OK - - Yes, I apologize, my site did go live and with proper backlink building along with an SEO-targeted press release and my work on blogs, I managed to build 688 quaility and trusted links in. But, the design was not anything I wanted as I'm very particular and so I'm having the idea redesigned and adding new features.....

For IT Directory - - If I type in "IT Directory" all I get is a bunch of advertised websites, terrible designs, and no IT directory that is specific to the industry. I can see from looking at them why people would not use them :-)

Yes, you do get 12,200,000 results from Boulder IT Support. However, If I take the top five resultants and analyze them, each site has no more than an average of 15 backlinks, their Title tags are fairly good, although the keywords are at the tail, and their h1 (if present) are not very descriptive....

The site is structured in a very SEO-driven way. It has both internal and contextual linking (inbound and outbound) and no duplicate content is being reported. I have taken great care to make the navigation and structure follow SEO standard practice, which ironically has taken the bulk of work!

vangogh
05-21-2010, 12:35 PM
Hope you know I'm just mentioning all these things to make you think more about the site and business idea. Sounds like you're pretty convinced things can't fail.

I take it then there is no current site for us to see. Feel free to post a link to it if there is.