Imagine arriving in a town armed with an online handbook written by locals, which suggests where to eat and stay, and can recommend a plumber. Thebestof.co.uk is a network of 360 community websites, run by local franchisees, containing a mixture of paid-for entries and reviews from residents. Founders Nigel and Sue Botterill say they invested a six-figure sum to buy Google search technology for their website, thus boosting advertisers’ profiles. The growing number of franchisees, who pay up to £35,000 to join, has driven up sales at the West Midlands firm 486% a year from an annualised £116,000 in 2004 to £4m in 2006, when it made a good profit.
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