DirectoriesDomain DevelopmentDomain NamesSemantic web

Epik | Directories: A New Path to Revenue

By May 28, 2010 November 5th, 2018 17 Comments

The Epik Product Portals have been a huge hit, with over 1200 portals already in production. For names like IceCreamMaker.com, the Epik | Product platform is an excellent way to increase the value of the domain and tap into the search volumes that would otherwise never come to the site. But, of course, not all domain names are so product-centric; many names with high exact search volumes are better suited for directories of businesses or places. They require a different platform.

Last year, Epik rolled out a first generation directory platform. It offered fairly rudimentary business listing and the ability to add articles and videos. However, the ability to offer more attractive layouts, customized searches by business type, and, in general, a greater sense of depth to the information, was more limited that we liked. So, we want back to the drawing board. After months of development, we are delighted to announce our next generation Epik | Directory platform. Or, more accurately, three new Directory platforms.

1. Service provider directories

Service Provider Directories list businesses that offer services to consumers, such as restaurants, hair salons, doctors, etc. On these sites, visitors can get the information they need about the provider so that they can decide whether to eat at that restaurant, select a new stylist, etc. The directory provides a list of businesses, and, for each business, a detailed profile page that describes their location, services, hours of operation, etc.

Dining.com Home Page

A business can also create additional profile pages for each of their employees. A hair salon, for example, can create separate pages detailing each of their stylist, their specialties, etc. This enables users to not only explore whether they want to go to that salon, but also to help them determine which particular stylist is right for them.

Haircare.com Home Page

A service provider’s profile can include not only the usual text information, but also videos, photos, reviews, etc; the same is true for the staff profiles as well. There can also be a hierarchical relationship between these pages and their content. So, for example, a salon could create a gallery of all the hair styles created by their staff, but the gallery on the profile for an individual stylist would only show the haircuts that he/she personally created.

Stylist Profile Page

As with most Epik sites, we leverage our platforms such as Comments.com, Questions.com, and Identity.net to create aggregated, cross-linked, and original user generated content as well as single sign on. And, because scheduling an appointment or a reservation with a service provider is such a common requirement, we will soon be rolling out the ability for these service providers to offer online appointment scheduling through integration with Appontment.com.

Service providers can claim or create their business listing. Many of the platform’s capabilities are available for free through our Basic tier of services. More advanced features such as profile customization and online appointment scheduling, will only be available through higher, fee-bearing Premium and Pro tiers. Consequently, the directory platform offers several ways to generate revenue from a site.

2. Proximity directories

Another type of directory is one where the primary concern, is where something is. For example, consider a directory of wifi hotspots or emergency rooms. The user wants a map of the nearest solution to their needs, and usually not much else. And so we come to the second type of Epik directory, in which the user interacts with the majority of the site information through an interactive map. To be sure, more detailed information is available, but the emphasis here is on where something is, not a detailed exegesis.

Wifi.comAnother difference between proximity directories and service provider directories is who “owns” the information. For a restaurant or hair salon, it is important to their business that they claim and control the content of their profile, the photos of their facility, etc. The tiers of service give them greater and greater control over that information.

However, in the case of the proximity directories, the data is more suitable for crowd sourcing. If, for example, someone discovers that there is a new public wifi hotspot available at the corner of Fifth and Main, they can add that to the site, and other users can review and vet that information. In other words, the community becomes the driver of the site’s information in a way that is inappropriate for a directory of business, who must necessarily control their information more closely.  The explosive success of Foursquare.com is a good case study of how this can work very well.

3. Geographic directories

Last, but not least, are more general directories of people and business, but oriented around a particular geography such as a city or town. These directories are much more horizontal in nature, as opposed to the vertical nature of the service provider directories, and are analogous to a local phone book’s white and yellow pages.

Tying it all together

As a parallel development effort to our three Epik | Directory solutions, we will also be releasing soon a unified master directory under the name TelephoneBook.com.   This master directory of contact information opens up the potential for creating a network of networks, including the possibility of aggregating foreign phone directories that adopt the unified framework for directory management.  As the web data becomes more structured through the incorporation of semantic technologies, this becomes the obvious evolution of phone directories.

Getting started with Epik | Directory

We offer any of the three types of directories in whatever combination of subject and geography is appropriate.  For example:

Dining.com          MontereyRestaurants.com          SeattleSushi.com

WiFi.com          ParisWiFi.fr

As for pricing:

$999 for vertical directory, e.g. Dining.com

$549 for a geo directory, e.g.  Seattle.com

$249 for a geo-vertical directory, e.g. SeattleDining.com

Everyone at Epik is excited about the new directory platforms and their ability to drive traffic and multiple streams of revenue for these types of domain names. We look forward to helping you build out some of your domains on these new platforms.

Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • Interesting though it is not quite clear whether the directory is pre-populated via a Superpages / Yellow Pages type directory as I have seen with some of the automated site listings or if businesses sign up for a fee and complete their own profiles. Or perhaps it is a combination of the two (free basic listing but customization for a fee)? The method of data population would determine how the site is monetized. This looks like a great solution for service and geo domains which sometimes are harder to sell to end users because they aren’t as targeted.

    Another question – would it be possible to integrate the directory functionality with an existing geo site by creating a subdomain within one’s hosting account or by inserting a block of HTML code which directs the visitor to content residing on EPIK nameservers pre-specified for that geo? Example – I live in a city and have a website I have developed using WordPress, Joomla, XSitepro2, etc with some relevant local photos, events, news, etc but could use some programming expertise to populate a city business directory and which facilitates monetizing the site via directory listings. If there were a way to integrate EPIK’s directory functionality into my site, it would allow the novice webmaster a powerful tool for creating relevant, monetizable content but yet still allow for local customization which EPIK wouldn’t easily be able to provide.

    • Rob Monster says:

      @Leonard – Thanks for the comment.

      These directories are compiled from a variety of sources. The are NOT a feed from an established directory. As we are doing with Product Portals, the foundation of Epik’s strategy to “federate” or segment the traditional monolithic model. A product portal is a kind of “Federated Amazon”. A directory portal is a Federated version of Yellow Pages. And it makes sense. If a user is looking for a restaurant they are probably not looking for a funeral home. In the early days of the Internet, we would rely on a monolithic directory. As the internet matures, it also has the opportunity to more segmented, specialized and federated. There will be a best directory for finding a florist, and there will be a best directory for finding a golf course, restaurant, etc. Domain owners can either choose to engage in this next phase of the web, or simply wait for it to happen using obscure domain names. There is no question that it WILL happen. However, over the long term, it makes a heck of a lot more sense for the premier Dining directory to be say Dining.com than say UrbanSpoon.com.

      The revenue model is focused on several components: (1) profile upgrades, (2) reservations, and (3) yield management. We went live with profile claim. Service providers can enhance their profile for a fee. Coming soon is the addition of reservations and appointments, using technology developed and matured under Appointment.com, which is part of the Epik network. A bit further down the road is yield management, which specifically refers to helping consumers find compelling opportunities when service providers have excess capacity in their schedule. We are confident that we can execute against all of these priorities and in the

      As for syndicating the directory, we currently support two models: (1) We can power other domains with segmented portals, e.g. SeattleSushi.com, (2) we can power subdomains, e.g. while we currently power miami.dining.com, the same data and community can power dining.miami.com. We have not opened up the option of providing an actual API to other developers. While this is an option, we think it is more interesting to cooperate with other developers on creating a more seamless user experience, which includes features like Single-sign-on, comments.com, Questions.com, etc.

  • Hugh says:

    Who is signing the business up on the site ? You ? Or are you hoping the business will sign up for the site on their own without any salesperson ? How much do you get and why ?

    • Rob Monster says:

      @Hugh – We actually provide the service for driving profile claim. For the last several months, we have been developing technology-enabled workflows for efficiently identifying the decision-maker at a service provider (e.g. a restaurant or salon) and inviting them to claim and enhance their profile.

      In addition to automated methods for profile claim, part of the logic for acquiring DevRich.com (announced earlier this week) is because they operate a call center, and have experience with call center management. For many service providers, a phone call will be required to complete the transaction.

      The setup fee for these Directories are actually very low. At best, they cover the production cost to complete a launch-worthy directory using a unified technology platform. The profit margin to Epik comes from sharing 50/50 in the subsequent sale of directory listings and marketing services to the business owners.

      Finally, unless otherwise agreed, the domain owner maintains ownership of the domain. As a result, the burden is on Epik to continue to do a good job in order to continue to have the opportunity to host the domain.

  • Todd says:

    Impressive. I’m in.

  • the serious buyer says:

    >> $549 for a geo directory, e.g. Seattle.com

    do your geo-directory FULLY support non-American-place.coms ,
    e.g. Mysore.com , Hannover.com ?

    cheers,best

    • Rob Monster says:

      @serious – The platform is by design a global platform. If a non-US geo comes onto the platform, we’ll build the directory for that geo. Ultimately, TelephoneBook.com will be the point of convergence connecting all of the directories that have been assembled at a project level, e.g. Hannover.com. Feel free to contact me at rob-at-epik.com if you want to discuss a specific portfolio situation.

  • Todd says:

    Rob, I have a few general questions regarding the directory platform business models:

    1. Service provider directories
    2. Proximity directories
    3. Geographic directories

    Let’s use dining.com, as an example, for simplicity.

    1. At present date, have “restaurant decision makers” been contacted to put their profile on dining.com? Is the initial contact via email exclusively?

    2. I tried to register at dining.com to see what “upgrade” options were available, but a TOS came up and I stopped since you know my IP.:)

    Can you give details on a typical Seattle restaurant “profile upgrade” cost or upgrade options (eg one-time, annual)? Do you have any data on the conversion rate of restaurants who decide to upgrade vs. sign up for the free register process? https://dining.com/admin/register.php.

    3. If I own a restaurant in Boston, MA, will I be contacted at the same time as other cities? Or is the rollout geographical in nature – NorthWest first, or zipcode-based.

    4. Is the success of dining.com ultimately based upon restaurant-owner awareness and acceptance of dining.com as a directory-of-choice? A Boston restaurant google.com-searcher will type in “Boston restaurants” at google.com. To the extent dining.com incorporates BostonRestaurants.com or Boston.com, it appears zagat.com is a major competitor to dining.com. What does dining.com offer or aim to offer to distinguish itself from zagat within the search engines? The obvious is boston.dining.com sounds a lot more appetizing than boston.zagat.com from my point of view.

    5. Will the “yield management” concept include a customer-option to make on-line reservations for a 6:00 pm dinner in Seattle at Anthony’s Restaurant – assuming an opening came available due to a reservation cancellation? Does “yield management” require the restaurant personnel to sign onto their website or dining.com website to indicate new opening to improve their productivity?

    Thanks.

    • Rob Monster says:

      @Todd – Good questions.

      1. Restaurant owners are being contacted via a combination of email contacts based on correlated WHOIS and call center contacts. The acquisition of DevRich added a call center which is being upgraded. I will do a blog post about it soon.

      2. The profile claim process works. The focus is on getting service providers to claim their business, which then enables the upsell to (1) enhanced listing, and (2) other services. We’ll have data on conversion soon.

      3. The rollout is partially being driven by where the traffic comes from. For example, when a profile is viewed or ranked by the search engines but not yet claimed by the owner, it is a priority candidate for contacting the owner.

      4. The success of Yelp, UrbanSpoon, and GroupOn all indicate that there is ample opportunity in the dining vertical. This is the first attempt to federate the data in a network model. As with product portals, we think this is a structurally better SEO path. Google is better off have content be federated than having users bypass Google and go directory to a destination portal like Yelp. In other words, Google benefits by ranking predictable networks of high quality content. In terms of the exact evolution of the platform, we expect to bring a fast pace of innovation, and to scale what works.

      5. Correct. The integration of Appointment.com is what makes this possible. Yield management goes one step further. It allows restaurant owners to leverage a promotional platform to put “butts in seats” that would otherwise go unused. This is where the network effect becomes very powerful — anyone who joins any site in the Epik network can opt-in to receive offers, which can include offers from any other site in the Epik network. This is one of the main reasons why Identity.net Single-Sign-On is such a key component of the unified architecture.

  • the serious buyer says:

    >> $549 for a geo directory, e.g. Seattle.com

    can we add our own content there ?

    thanks

    cheers,best

    • Rob Monster says:

      @Serious — Yes the system includes an integrated CMS for adding content. Users can also add content, e.g. images, videos, articles (menus), reviews. If there is a special kind of content you are wanting to add, let’s discuss and make sure the platform fits your requirement. I will send you an email.

  • Louise says:

    Epik bit off alot – hope you get it done! The acquisition of the domain I emailed you about went through, which is the ideal hub that can be a vertical directory ($999) to link to some of the geoverticals you are already work on for me . . . the scale is so big to what youa re attempting, what do you think if I start small by hosting and developing the site using Perl and cgi-access – the data is stored linerally in text file instead of an sql database and perform my little SEO – would you be able to transfer the data already collected when it’s ready to enhance using the advantages your system offers? Does the vertical directory allow control for editing videos, photos, articles – anything accessible from the front page?

    How about server uptime? Are your servers up to the bandwidth drain of a large project?

    Who did Karate.com ? You can be very proud of that, though I am not a fan of Karate. With a site like that, which can be monolithic and impersonal, it is essential to assure the visitor that a real human keeps tight control of the content – at least what is presented on the homepage, if you expect the viewer to return. That’s reasonable for the viewer to determine if he likes the editing style and wants to return.

    People go online for personal contact, not to escape it, ironic as that may sound in the digital age. It’s better for SEO, IMO. Syndicated articles are a sloppy choice to populate content, IMO. Slick doesn’t compensate for human contact, even if the design or wording is comparitively primitive, it’s almost as though the sites which lack the most in slickness and visuals offer the most in the way of human input. That is, one shouldn’t be sacrificed for the other. For an example, look at Malaysia.com. It’s a nice, rich site. But if doesn’t get updated soon with new content, it could become stale. That’s where human input is compromised in order to maintain the “quality” as far as writing skills, photography, or design. What I’m saying is: a little scruffy is okay!

Leave a Reply

Translate »