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Pick a City - any City

By Stephen Bucaro
Posted Sunday, December 26, 2004

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Operating your own city guide on the Web can be interesting and very profitable. Almost every city already has at least one city guide. But there is always room for one more. For example, I live near Phoenix, Arizona. I could call my site "The Best Guide to Phoenix", "The Official Guide to Phoenix", or "The Complete Guide to Phoenix".

How do you generate revenue from a city guide? 1. You charge a fee to list restaurants, accommodations, and other businesses that are located in the city. 2. You sell books and videos about the city, and city souvenirs and mementos.

You should develop your city guide in phases.

Phase 1. Create the non-commercial sections of the Web site. Some cities, like Chicago and New York, are popular for their cultural attractions. Some cities, like Phoenix, are popular for nearby natural attractions. Some cities are popular for their artisans, monuments, or history. Create an attractive front page that displays photographs related to the unique attractions of the city.

Develop an "Attractions" section of your Web site. You might also want to develop a "Maps" section. When you have a reasonable amount of content, begin promoting your city guide to start generating some traffic.

Phase 2. Create the commercial sections of the Web site. You should develop an "Accommodations" section, a "Restaurants" section, and a "Businesses" section. You might also want to develop a "Search" section.

Contact all the large businesses that you want to list in your city guide and offer them free listing. Yes - free. In order to get things rolling, you will have to fill up the commercial sections by offering free listing. Don't tell them you are going start charging as soon as you get the sections filled out.

This is how you approach the business owners; "I'm developing a new city guide web site and I'm listing every important business in the city for free. Can you provide me with some information about your establishment?" People have less resistance to free, and this will get you access to the decision makers of the businesses.

Phase 3. You contact every business listed in your city guide and ask them if they want to renew their listing for one year for $1 (or some incredibly low fee). You can also approach businesses not yet listed with the offer to list them for the same incredibly low fee.

If you were a restaurant owner or hotel manager looking at a guide that has all your competitors listed, wouldn't you be willing to pay a small fee to remain in the guide? The reason that you have such a low fee is because you want your customers to take the important leap from a free listing to a paid listing.

Phase 4. After their renewal expires, you present each business with your listing options for the next year. You can offer anything from a small advertisement to a multi-page Web site. You are now an established city guide. Even your minimal listing - an entry in the search section only - costs $50.00 to $500.00 or more per year. The leap from paid to a price increase is not as wide as the leap from free to paid.

The potential earnings from a Web city guide varies with the size and popularity of the city. Even a small town with some attraction should provide you with a moderate income. A large city with many popular attractions could earn you much more.

For good examples of city guide web sites visit: Explore Dickenson North Dakota ( Glenwood Guide ( Santa Fe Always Online (

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