How to launch a new website from the SEO perspective: Case study of Novogradnja.rs

About two weeks ago Prelovac Media finished an internal project and launched a new website called Novogradnja (Serbian word for "new construction"). It's basically a real estate portal but specializing in newly built flats, houses and apartments.


Novogradnja.rs Homepage

I thought I'd share a short story about the project.

Planning

It begun about a year ago when we spotted an opportunity in the local market for a site in this niche. Couple of sites existed that covered the demand for new construction but were too broad and none of them were really up to standards of current Internet technology.

I had an attractive ccTLD domain name Novogradnja.rs, which was an important first step and gave us confidence about the future site. Short, memorable and exact domain names are a great start - they are easy to remember and pass on by visitors, and have an added bonus of usually doing good in search engines.

We laid down the basic principles about the site and decided to go after quality of presentation and user experience as main goals.

At the beginning we decided to limit listings to those with pictures only and build the design around that decision. A large number of listings (up to 80% even) in the current local market runs without pictures and we knew that we will be limiting ourselves with content but on the other side we wanted every visitor to have a rewarding experience while searching. Nobody likes a property listing without pictures, it just didn't seem right.

Development

Around ten months of development followed, which was basically a race to implement the core functionality of the new site with a modern design on a custom CMS.

Special attention was attributed to the creation of the main search page which had to be both user friendly (good presentation of search results, easy search expansion...) and search engine friendly (creating a solid URL structure before all).

We also used tools like SEO Doctor to make sure the on page optimization follows the modern SEO standards.

During the development we used htaccess to limit  access to the website both for visitors and search engines. Don't peek until we are ready.

We also used this time to collect contacts of agencies and investors who would be interested in advertising their listings on the site once we launch.

And then, on October 4th, everything was ready.

Launching

The site was released to the public and the notification emails flew away. We knew that in order for the site to become successful, we need listings! So the initial goal was just to get agencies and investors with properties for sale to register and post them.

We were new, that was a downside, but we had an attractive domain and a fresh, modern design. We also decided to give away free memberships in order to get listings, which would get the ball rolling (these kind of sites absolutely depend on listings for content).

And day by day the listings started flowing in, bit restricted by complex local advertising laws.

When we finally got some listings (about 20 at the time) it was time to expose the site to search engines. We added the site in couple of local directories, I gave it a link from my blog and we released a press release.

And sure enough the hard working Google bot started crawling.

Monitoring

To be able to monitor what is going on, it is an imperative to have Google Analytics (to track visitors) and Google Webmaster Tools (to be able to respond to any crawling/indexing problem quickly).

First 'problem' we run into was actually that googlebot was working too hard, indexing almost a million pages in few days mainly produced by the advanced search feature. It was apparently disregarding the robots.txt directives and was just hungry for fresh content. To help it focus on relevant content only we made sure our XML sitemap lists only pages with listings.

A side note: while it is good to have large number of pages indexed, it is important to maintain useful content on all these pages or otherwise the value for the visitor will be low. How many times have you come upon a page while searching for a product review only to be frustrated with  'no reviews found' message?

Results

After two weeks we reached the first milestone of 100 search visitors a day.

It may not sound much, but keep in mind this is a specialized niche in a local market. Also only couple of visitors are needed in order for hundred thousands of EUR to change hands when a property is sold.

Our next milestone is to hopefully achieve 500 search visitors a day which would place us among top sites in this market.

The site easily got to the first page of search results for it's main keyword. Little competition and good domain name help a lot with that.

And sure enough we also got the first calls from advertisers.

Celebrate

After everything has started well, don't forget to celebrate. Open a bottle of champagne to thank the heavens and keep the spirits up.

Conclusion

I really enjoy working on this project. Here is a list outlining the most important things to have in mind for similar projects:

  1. Find an opportunity -  specialized niche in a local market
  2. Chance is you will be able to reserve an exact match ccTLD domain. Take it!
  3. Develop a website or use a ready made php script
  4. Gather contact information about people who will be genuinely interested in your site (I hate email spam as anyone, but in this case you are really helping them with their business)
  5. Launch! We used a local press release service to announce the launch
  6. Get quality content at the cost of limiting your revenue at the beginning
  7. Create links to the site. Using your blog and couple of free directories is good for beginning and will get your site indexed instantly
  8. Sign up for Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools. Track the progress and watch out for any warnings!
  9. If everything goes good celebrate!

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11 Comments

  1. Aug 16th, 2012 7:32 PM

    Great advice on the process of setting up a new website. We all gotta start somewhere!

  2. Nikola
    Mar 27th, 2012 1:05 PM

    Vrlo interesantan tekst! Predlozio bih ako bude vremena naravno, jos nesto slicno na temu web startup-a, sigurno imate dosta informacija na tu temu a izgleda i zelje da iste podelite. Hvala i sve cestitke!

  3. Oct 22nd, 2010 2:01 PM

    Thanks for these process. It is really educative and inspiring to learn things happens when we persevere.

  4. Oct 21st, 2010 5:03 PM

    Very good post. The focus of the project and the achievement of this.
    Congratulations!

  5. Oct 21st, 2010 3:41 PM

    And this we call: Entrepreneurship. What's your advice to those who have many business ideas like this but don't have such development skills and/or investment?

  6. Shawn
    Oct 21st, 2010 3:13 PM

    Looks great and you gotta love the anticipation of the new site launch and seeing it all come together. Thoughts on re-selling the real estate script/code? Is it WP?

    Shawn

    • Oct 21st, 2010 7:48 PM

      No thoughts about that, the whole deployment is huge and probably could not be sold as a script.

  7. Milos Spasic
    Oct 21st, 2010 1:24 PM

    Great job! Thanks for sharing your experience, it means a lot for everybody whose starting a new site from scratch.

    • Oct 21st, 2010 2:52 PM

      Thanks, it was my pleasure.

  8. Oct 21st, 2010 1:23 PM

    Čestitam na fantastičnom projektu. Znala sam da će biti nešto, čim te nešto mnogo nema. I, ako ne stignem 26. oktobra, srećan rođendan, unapred. :)

    • Oct 21st, 2010 2:51 PM

      Hvala lepo, i hvala za cestitku :)