How to pick the right domain name

How should you go about selecting the right domain name for your business?

Firstly, you need to find the free domain names available on the web. For this, you can take help of your web host. Some web hosting plans include a free domain name with their hosting plan.

So, once you know where to actually register a name, how do you pick the right one?

To help demonstrate some different selection methods I’ll use the ficticious example of P J Morris, a long established bookshop based in Ashford, Kent.*

In an ideal world where all possible domain names are available here are a few different ways of approaching it.

Firstly, you can just use the business name. Examples:

pjmorris.co.uk
p-j-morris.co.uk

This works well if your brand is already known to your audience. People in the town who already know the shop would recognise it online and easily remember the domain name.

If you’re looking to build a brand or attract visitors who are not familiar with your business, the domain would need to be very simple and memorable.

Some websites use abstract names, which don’t actually describe what the site has to offer, but they are very easy to remember, easy to spell and very brandable. Some examples of this might be Bing.com and Amazon.com.

Another approach might be to use the business’s activity as the main focus. Examples:

books.co.uk
bookshop.co.uk

(remember we’re assuming that everything’s available)

These two approaches can, of course, be combined to give the business’s name and its activity. Examples:

pjmorrisbooks.co.uk
pjmorris-bookshop.co.uk

Finally, you can use the business location in the domain name, either with the business name, the business activity or both. Examples:

pjmorrisashford.co.uk
pjmorriskent.co.uk
books-ashford.co.uk
kentbooks.co.uk
pjmorrisbooksashford.co.uk
pjmorris-books-ashford.co.uk

Using the business location may help match local searches but may also limit your business’s scope to local searchers.

In the real world, a new site for a book shop would have an enormous amount of competition so combining the name or activity with a geographical reference to successfully match more specific searches is probably a good strategy.

Some general tips:

  • It’s better to avoid using hyphens (-) if possible as people don’t remember them.
  • Try to keep domain names short. pjmorris.co.uk is easy to remember, talk about, give out over the phone and easy to include in any offline marketing, whereas, the other extreme, pjmorris-books-ashford.co.uk, becomes a bit of a mouthful and hard to use.

* Any resemblance to any real person or business of this name is purely coincidental.

Twitter explained simply

twitterTwitter keeps hitting the headlines at the moment but a lot of people don’t seem to understand what it really is and how it differs from other Social Networks. I’ll try to explain it in terms more people can understand.

Twitter is basically about posting short messages, much like SMS texting on mobiles. Each post is called a “tweet” and is limited to 140 characters. It can’t include other media as such but it can include hyperlinks so anything you wish to share is only a click away.

It doesn’t work like email where you choose the recipients of your messages but more like a subscription service. You put your message out there and it’s read by your subscribers. In many ways it’s more like broadcasting.

As a Twitter user, or “Twitterer”, you have the option to “follow” other users meaning you subscribe to their broadcasts. Each user has lists of “following” – who he/she has chosen to follow and “followers” – who is following him/her.

Twitter has 2 real strengths which differentiate it from other networks.

Firstly, the 140 characters limit means it is highly portable and works well with mobile phone applications. For example, it’s very easy to let your followers know what you’re doing whilst on the move.

Secondly, when you read someone else’s “tweet” there’s a facility to “retweet” it, which means instantly broadcasting it to all of your followers. This means that something written by one person can reach millions within a very short time frame. This is what tends to happen with big breaking news stories and this is why it is becoming such a powerful tool for marketing and PR.

If anyone wants to follow me and be alerted to new articles I’m @chris22smith.

Web traffic through quality links

I’ve recently started a new web development blog and have been pleasantly surprised at the high levels of traffic (relative to anything I’ve done before) it’s receiving after such a short space of time. I’ll share with you how I’ve achieved this.

My traffic building strategy was to target a few carefully chosen high quality links. My plan was to try to create a small number of links to my site, quality not quatity, coming from web pages highly ranked by Google and with a subject matching the page on my site. I also decided to use deep linking rather than just point everything at my home page.

The subject of my blog is web development resources and, in particular, ASP.NET web development. (Two links in that last sentence, sorry, can’t help myself.)

When I blogged about a particular solution I then went in search (Google) of people with technical issues looking for my solution. All I then did was create a forum account and post a reply linking out to my blog post. Highly relevant. I’d respond to forum posts that had been dead for 2 years. Doesn’t matter. I’m still getting a link to my site which is good for me and the solution is posted on that forum for anyone who searches in the future.

The key point is that in this scenario is that the inbound links I have created are actually useful to the linking site’s audience. Everybody wins. It’s in no way trying to cheat the system. This is the right way to generate your inbound links.

My website is 5 today!

Happy 5th Birthday!My website, www.chris-smith-web.com, is 5 years old today.

I registered the domain name and started building the site on 15th June 2004. This has made me all nostalgic so I thought I’d take a quick look back over the last 5 years and how the site and business has changed in that time.

I registered the domain with a company called 123-reg whom I still use to this day. They provide good value domain registration with a nice simple control panel. I also hosted my first site with them though now I have moved on, mainly due to the more advanced technologies I now use.

website in 20042004

My first design was fairly basic but, looking back on it now, I still like its simplicity and clarity.

Although it was a new site it managed to bring in some good enquiries and before long I was off and running.

I can still remember my first enquiry and the first website I built for a client very clearly.

website in 20062006

As the “cheap web design” market got more and more competitive I needed to redesign the site to try to improve its search engine rankings. I tried using an individual web page for each individual service I could offer.

With hindsight, I think what I gained in web traffic I lost in conversions as this design failed to impress web development seekers.

website in 20072007

Another year on the web was changing and Web 2.0 technologies were becoming more common. I decided I needed a different design with a fresher, more vibrant feel. This design change saw a marked improvement in my enquiry levels.

I also started using server side technology to create more interactivity.

Today

My site now uses a blogging model and has articles as its centre rather than just the static pages about my services. This model is strong on the search engine side and my visitor numbers are higher than ever. It also means I get to write about the things that I’m passionate about – web development and online marketing.

The Future

I’m just in the process of launching a new site focused on Online Marketing. Please take a look at Chris Smith Marketing, www.chrissmithmarketing.com.

Monitoring your Marketing with Unique URLs

Failure

Using Google Analytics or a similar web stats package you can see how many people are visiting a particular page or downloading a particular document on your website.

When you’re creating a new online marketing campaign it’s useful for you to be clear on what web traffic has been generated from a specific activity rather than just look at your overall traffic.

For example, if you were promoting a particular event you might place a link on your website’s home page, run an ad on Facebook and do an email to your contacts. It would be very useful to know the effectiveness of each of these activities.

The easiest way to monitor this is to use specific URLs, one for each activity or source.

Instead of adding a normal link to your page, e.g. http://www.yourwebsite.com/event.htm, you can create unique URLs by adding additional information on to the end of the URL. These additional bits of information are called parameters and values. Here are some examples:

http://www.yourwebsite.com/event.htm?src=homepage
http://www.yourwebsite.com/event.htm?src=facebook
http://www.yourwebsite.com/event.htm?src=email

To introduce additional information you add a question mark “?” to the end and then a parameter name. This can be anything you like. Here I’ve used “src” short for source. You then have an equals sign “=” and set a value against it. Again, this can be anything you like.

If you’re website is database driven your URLs may already have one or more sets of parameters and values in the URL (look for a question mark). If this is the case you simply need to add an ampersand “&” on to the end plus your parameter name, an equals sign “=” and a value. The ampersand is used to join pairs of parameters and values.

By adding further sets of parameters and values to the URL you can get more detailed information back. For example, if your contacts database identified people’s sex and you wanted to check whether more men or women were visiting your page you could use the URLs:

http://www.yourwebsite.com/event.htm?src=email&sex=male
http://www.yourwebsite.com/event.htm?src=email&sex=female

You can use this URL monitoring to see which activities are working for you and which are providing the best value for money and return on investment.