I have been pondering this one for a while. How to create a nationwide pilot car directory – Pilotcarfinder.com and have it rank well. So I created this one in Ruby on Rails. It’s crazy big and took me five times longer than I thought it would. But I learned a ton and now I am confident that I could make a directory program that I could launch for anytype of city or state directory in no time at all.
My model was complex. But my goal seemed simple – I wanted to divide the database up by State, and by major metro areas within each State. So I found a few lists of Cities and ranked them by population. I then cut the list to be the top 500. So now I have a list of cities that I could use for a generic ‘metro area’ list and a State list (of course). Here is a link to one of the metro lists – Dallas Pilot Car List . The State list is really cool here is a sample of it – Texas Pilot Car Directory. And here is the complete State list – USA Pilot Car List . The reason that I did not go dynamic was that the States are not going to change – so having them hard coded saved one trip to the database.
Now, the question is… how will Google like it? So far, it looks great. On some area searches, the results pages are ranking on Page 1 of Google results, in the first week!
The Technology: Ruby on Rails
So, I thought I could build this with Weebly or WordPress for the pilot car directory – but every time I started to build it out – I hit limitations of the platforms. The first problem I ran into was in creating my state/metro-area/pilot-car-list structure. Wordpress would allow me to lay that in as categories & subcategories, but it would not allow me a way to build pages of links without hand coding and then dropping that into the content area of a post page (yech). So I went to Rails.
I had made a few applications in rails before, but nothing this complex. But, I have a solid app and it is set up in a way that makes it easy to adapt and add to offline. Then I can push it up to the server with confidence.
Hacks: Some of the cool things behind the curtain
One of the tricks that makes this site so awesome is that I was able to divide the Pilot Car Services listings into States & Major Metro areas for the search engines, but also have a Geo-coded search based on the City and zipcode of the Pilot Car companies. So, in addition to the search in Google for say “Pilot cars near Reno”, while on the site, you can search for wide load escort companies by any geography or even point of interest. Example: In the search box, enter “Lake Tahoe”. Then Pilot cars within 65 miles of Lake Tahoe appear. Pretty cool.
One of the other tricks is to automatically build meta data into each state page, each metro area page, and each Pilot Car directory page. So, Google and the other search engines can pick up on that and utilize it. I also used a search engine friendly url for each listing. I am going to do this for the States and Metro areas soon – but getting it to work has been a little ‘over my head’.
Oh, did I mention that it’s responsive to screen size? Yes. I built it with mobile in mind. I thought that a pilot car directory for truckers should be able to be used on mobile devices, tablets and smartphones.
Last, within the listings, the pilot car companies can add links to their social media, to their own websites, and can even load up to 12 pictures. (and if they load the pics with descriptions, the app will even make meta data for the pictures to be ranked into Google.)
So, I think this will be a success. I don’t think a list of wide load escorts is going to be a database that I am going to make money on – but this is more of a ‘proof of concept’ that this directory format will be rock solid for use across the country. Next, I need to think of another industry that could use a good directory like this. Any ideas? I am open to partnering with someone for other industries that could use a great directory.