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The Net-Works Guide to Marketing Your Website
The Net-Works Guide to Marketing Your Website will teach you how to arrange, list and promote your site in the most effective manner possible - by giving potential customers what they want or need and making these resources easy to find.
It covers everything from the basics of linking and search engine registration through to:
It shows that by offering something of value to potential customers you can not only achieve stronger traffic results, but also make web users more receptive to your business message.
Why This Chapter?
The Net-Works Guide to Marketing Your Website is different from most online marketing books, in that it acknowledges that even something as 'simple' as search engine success depends just as much on what you have to offer as how you list it. As popular as 'free' material regarding the most effective search engine techniques would be, this information really is useless without an understanding of web culture and what users have come to expect from a site (and how it promotes itself). The obvious answer seemed to be providing a chapter on these principles - but even this is difficult to do, as it is a message that develops throughout the book hand in hand with the aforementioned techniques.
It's for this reason that I've chosen to make the chapter on Domain Names freely available, in that while it looks closer at the issue than most publications, the subject requires little understanding of web culture for it to be appreciated and used effectively. It also allows me to link you directly to some very useful tools mentioned towards the end of this chapter.
If you're a very small company and you wish to host your web site on the free space offered to you by your Internet Service Provider, (your URL in this case would be something along the lines of http://www.ispname.com/businessname/) then go for it. A domain name isn't the be all and end all of your web presence, and many quality business sites have enjoyed success without one.
That said, a domain name (especially a .com) is seen as a powerful branding tool that not only enhances customer confidence, but also makes you easier to find in a number of ways.
If you are serious about marketing your web site, then you will have to carefully consider what your domain name is going to be and how it is going to benefit you. You also need to make sure that it is bought sensibly, and hosted correctly, for it to be truly effective.
In short, a domain name is not necessary. Getting the right domain name and hosting solution is.
Why a Domain Name?
Why .com? (And 'Why Not?')
'.com' is widely seen to be the Park Avenue of web addresses. This makes things kind of tough if the domain name using your brand or company name is already taken (and with .com, you can bet this is the case), but it is worth the effort to try and secure an effective '.com' first, before investigating a local suffix (like .com.au, or .co.uk). The truly thorough secure both.
It should also be noted that if your business is based primarily in one country, then sticking with a local domain only is perfectly acceptable. It may even benefit you in the end, as a lot of the localised search engines give ranking preference to sites using local domains.
Why Hosting is Important
Many of the 'cheap' domain deals involve redirection, 'masked' or 'branded' hosting. This can not only look very shoddy to those who know how such things work, but also make it almost impossible for the search engine robots to list you properly. The methods these companies use differ greatly, so there is little point trying to cover all of the techniques here, but rest assured that just about all of these 'cheap' procedures will make you as good as invisible to the search engines.
If you are going to the expense of buying a domain name, then you have to make sure that the company who provides your web space will allow you to assign a domain name to that space.
For instance, you will almost certainly find that your ISP will not let you do this on your 'free' web space. For this reason, most businesses end up using a reputable 'virtual' host. Some of these hosts even offer pretty good domain name deals and email redirection as part of the offer, so shop around first.
Note - Even the 'free' space that your ISP provides can present problems. Some, like VirginNet for example, offer you a 'masking' option that lets you direct web users to an address like 'business.virgin.net/~yourname' when the actual assigned name is 'freespace.virgin.net/~yourname'. This may seem like a good measure to make your hosting choice seem a little more professional, but if you try to register the 'masked' address with a search engine it will not be able to see beyond the 'masked' address to your page. Subsequently, you are forced to submit the 'freespace' address to the search engines if you wish to get listed at all.
Domain Name Dangers
When you secure a '.com' domain name, the details under which you have purchased it are readily available to anyone who wishes to look at them via a whois search. For this reason, it always pays to use your business address and phone details when purchasing your domain name. Do you really want someone calling you at home with a question about your web site?
Dot Com Denial
Even if you have what you think is a reasonably unique brand or company name, chances are the '.com' for that name is already taken. Often this involves someone in the United States who also has a legitimate claim to it. Occasionally, however, you may find that 'your' name has been secured by a 'cybersquatter'.
A cybersquatter is also known as a 'domain name speculator' (and a few other names we dare not print here). These entrepeneurs buy up domain names that they think will represent value to someone in the future, hoping to sell them at a greatly increased price.
A lot of people refuse to do business with cybersquatters on principle, but, if the price they have set seems fair and reasonable, you may choose to settle things in the most straightforward manner and simply pay them. Alternatively, you can secure the name with a local domain. Here your trademark rights are stronger and your brand or company name is more likely to be available.
You may even choose to forgo branding in the domain name and instead use it as a powerful keyword tool, or use a combination of both.
Tip - If you believe your brand, trademark or other rights have been infringed, then you should refer to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers at www.icann.org for more information.
Choosing a Domain Name
Your best bet in the overcrowded domain name market is using a combination of words, and possibly the careful and judicious use of a dash ('-'). This could involve teaming your brand or company name with a powerful keyword, or using multiple keywords to comprise a sales message or mission statement in your domain name.
When drafting ideas for your domain name, you should ask yourself the following questions:
Is it easy to spell?
By 'natural separation', we mean the landscape of the words that, when presented running together, may or may not make clear where the first word ends and the next word begins. Remember that domain names do not allow for spaces (this is what the dash is for). Sometimes you will need to include a dash to define two separate words, and sometimes high and low letters will do it for you.
'High' letters: b, d, f, h, k, l, t
'Low' letters: g, j, p, q, y
The first example below seems to run together between the 'l' and the 'i' - 'lint' even seems to leap out at you from the middle of the name, thanks to it being a recognisable word in itself, and bounded by two 'high' letters that set it apart. Here a dash is necessary to separate the words and make the domain name that much more recognisable - and memorable.
In this next example, the dash is necessary to define the branding for 'Net Works' and set it apart from the common computer term 'network'. It also looks fairly balanced thanks to the relatively evenly spaced 'high' letters in the domain name and the local domain suffix.
Here no dashes are necessary, as the words in this straightforward sales message are clearly defined and separated by 'high' and 'low' letters. This is also fairly well balanced in combination with the '.co.uk'.
These are more than simple aesthetic concerns (though you will want your domain name to look pleasing if you plan on using it on letterheads and brochures). Making sure that your domain name is instantly decipherable and memorable strengthens your brand, and aids retention for all those who see it.
Looking up a Domain Name
Once you've got a few ideas sketched out, you are going to have to go to a domain name 'lookup' page (also known as a 'WhoIs' lookup) to find out which of your preferred combinations are available.
There are thousands of such pages and services, nearly all of which will confirm the availability of any name with the message 'buy it now' (a perfect example of providing a resource and turning it into a sale). Below, we'll be recommending some of the better 'lookup' services on the Internet, but you should be aware that a better deal is nearly always out there. Sadly, taking the time to shop around could lead to heartache, as what was available yesterday could very well be taken tomorrow.
There have also been whispers of companies that run 'WhoIs' lookups taking choice domain names queried through their site for themselves. While a case has yet to be substantiated here, there is certainly enough smoke to cause alarm. Even if the domain name you query one day is gone the next purely by chance, it is very frustrating to go through this, so it is usually best to:
1. Research and settle on a good domain (and hosting/assigning) deal first
Now the domain business has been deregulated, many different domain registrars are granting domain names. Sometimes names come up as being 'available' when someone has actually already bought it (and the 'sale' has yet to register in the database you are searching). This special search engine lets you search all of the relevant databases for the major domains to find out who owns it.
Here you can not only check the basic availability of your chosen domain name in .com, .net and .org, but also jump straight to the nation of your choice to check its availability for your local area.
Domain Name Wizard
Rather than only letting you try one name or domain at a time, this site offers a few creative solutions by providing a selection of variations based on your business name (and a few keywords if you so choose).
This great service checks whether your planned domain name is already taken, violates a US trademark, or might have an alternate meaning in a foreign language (those who bought a Mitsubishi 'Pajero' will be aware of the dangers here). It even searches for rhymes and suggests combinations of multiple words if you wish.
© Tim Ireland 2001
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© 2001 Tim Ireland