When designing your business’s website, there are a number of things to bear in mind when it comes to attracting clients, maximizing your SEO ranking, and giving your office a strong online presence.
Search Engine Marketing in 2017
Trying to advertise your business using search engine marketing can feel like a stab in the dark. You might be uncertain about the most effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, especially when the search algorithms that create search results change so frequently. In 2017, with search engine results more competitive than ever, it’s essential for your business to stand out. Read on to learn more about how you can promote your business via search engines in the next year.
Did you know that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation? Or that 74% say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more?
Our free Directory Listings service helps promote our members’ businesses by submitting key information to our Directory Database, which is used by over 100 online directories to create listings.
Instead of having to research which business directories are out there, and then figuring out the specific submission requirements for each one, we do most of the work for you. Not only do you save time, but you benefit from teams of experts who specialize in researching and networking with directories, listings, and local search best practices. All you have to do is fill out one simple form in our editor and we’ll take it from there. If your business happens already to be listed on these directories, connection with our directory helps the Directories stay detailed and updated.
Check Twice, Submit Once
Like your website itself, what you get out of our Directory Listings service is based on what you put into it, and it only works if all the information is accurate. As exciting as it is to submit your listings as part of your website launch, it’s best to wait until your website is complete before promoting it. Take the time to make sure all the important information about your business is on the site, and double, or even triple, check to ensure for accuracy. You don’t want to hastily submit your billing address instead of your office address, for instance, nor do you want to say your office is on “Oak Street” if it’s really on “Oak Lane.”
I cannot stress enough how important it is that you make sure information is accurate on your website and listings submission. As self-evident as this may seem, you really want to make sure that you spell everything correctly, have the correct and appropriate information showing, and add any details that are important to publicize (including, but not limited to, languages you speak, how a client would set up the first appointment, anything unusual about your location or parking, etc).
While the whole point of directory listings is to promote your business, most online promotion will involve linking to your website, so it’s important to ensure that your website is accurately promoting your business. Once information goes online, it becomes harder to properly update the info later. It’s better to wait to submit accurate information than to submit erroneous information and edit it after the fact. Likewise, if you’re expecting a move or major change, it might be worth waiting to start the listings process until you can promote your long-term information instead of having conflicting information online. Remember, you can always contact us with questions or advice about specific or unusual situations.
While practically everything we do for our members is part of your membership costs, one exception is if we need to resubmit information to our Online Directory Database due to customer error. If you provide inaccurate information which needs to be corrected, there may be a $35 charge.
Remember, we have a whole team of support staff eager to help you, so please let us know if you have any questions or requests.
How it works
Once we receive the information you’ve submitted, we do a quick cross-reference between the Listings submission and your website.This helps us to ensure that your main information, the Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) is correct, that the website is up and running, and allows us to review for other issues. If we notice any problems, we contact you by email before publicizing your information.
Please note: while we do our best to double check your submission, the best way to ensure that we submit your information accurately is to provide accurate information to us. We do our best, but our members have more first-hand knowledge of their own information.
Depending on your location and business model, we submit you to one of two major internal databases. Most, and many of the best known, online directories require a physical “brick and mortar” office in the United States. As a result, our main database focuses on this largest batch of directories, many of which include maps to your business. This database includes Yahoo Local, Bing, Localeze, Superpages, numerous online Yellow Pages and many more.
If you don’t operate in the United States, want to keep your address private, and/or your business model is not based on clients coming to your office, we submit you to our web-based database. This connects to over a hundred listings, but focuses exclusively on driving traffic to your website.
Businesses with Multiple Offices
Our standard membership includes submissions for one office to our directory database. Some of our members prefer to have the information for each additional office to also be submitted in full to our directory database. Additional full submissions to our directory database are possible for a one-time fee of $99 per each additional office. The cost for similar services for independent businesses often ranges from $300- 500 per year.
Google Places and Related Tools
Google Places (also known as Google Local and “Google My Business”) is Google’s business directory, and is connected to Google Plus and Google Maps. It is connected to, but distinct from, Google’s Search Engine tool as well. Google’s Search Engine is what most people think of when they say “Google”, so it’s easy to confuse “Google My Business” with the idea of doing a Google search for a business.
Google Places is arguably the best known and most popular online business directory. The downside of this popularity is that it’s the most exploited by spammers, scammers and assorted online ne’er-do-wells, so Google has created a notably labor-intensive and inconvenient way to verify that all listings are for a legitimate and existing business.
Historically, we have searched for existing Google Places Listings for our members, and updated them if and when needed, and we will continue to do this. However, we no longer can create new listings if we do not find one online.
Google has been changing the way that listings are created, verified and managed, placing emphasis on connecting Google business directories with Google+ and seemingly wanting business owners to be hands on. As a result, it is currently impossible for us to create, verify and manage listings as a third party.
As a result, we strongly encourage you to set up your own Google Account via https://www.google.com/business
If you don’t have a Google Account, you may create one for free via https://accounts.google.com/SignUp
Having a Google Account is useful for most of our members, as it allows you to take advantage of Google Analytics to track visits to your website. Google Analytics is the industry standard tool for tracking traffic to your website, and it can provide you with powerful information about your site visitors, what pages they view, how long they stay on the site, and how they are finding you. Analytics allows you to quantitatively track the results of your site promotion efforts – giving you the data you need to tune your site for the best results. With our integration with Google Analytics – all you need to do is sign up, and plug your profile number into the SEO tab of your website editor.
Businesses with multiple offices should create a unique listing for each location.
Editing and updating information
We are happy to update your listings if you move or otherwise change, update, or add important information to your website. Please contact us via [email protected] with questions or edit requests.
Please note that Psychology Today’s directory is not one of the directories we submit to via the Listings process. They are a completely separate service that charges $29.95/month, although we do partner with them for specific promotions.
If you have any questions about your Psychology Today Therapy Directory profile, you can contact Psychology Today at (212) 260-7210.
More you can do
While we do as much as possible to promote our members’ businesses, there are some directories that are difficult, if not impossible, for us to work with as a third party. Some of these may or may not be relevant to you and your business:
Healthgrades.com; While focusing on Medical Doctors and Dentists, many of our members have found it worth being listed on Healthgrades.
Yelp.com and Citysearch.com; These review-based directories tend to be more focused on bars, restaurants, hair salons, etc., but are worth considering, depending on your practice and focus. These are likely to be very useful for vets, massage therapists, and dentists, but less so for therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists.
Yext.com; Yext is a good service which some of our customers ask about, however, many consider it to be very expensive, and much of their service is redundant if you’ve submitted to our Listings service, especially if you’ve also created listings in Yelp and Citysearch.
There are other companies and services out there that do good work, but many of them charge for what you’re already getting as part of your membership. We don’t want to steer people away from anything that helps them, but we don’t want our members to spend extra money, either. We especially caution you to look into any service or offer that seems too good to be true. Remember, we’re always here for you, so please let us know when you have any questions!
Other ways to enhance your website: The logical next question is “what comes after listings?”. While our SEO department is available to take you in-depth through any of these suggestions, here’s a brief list of other great things to focus on:
1 – Customize your content: We provide some excellent stock content, but the specificity and unique voice you bring to it help potential clients to decide whether or not they want to work with you (link to that blog)
2- Build your content: Bigger is definitely better when it comes to website content. Contact us for suggestions about where to expand on your offerings
3 – Consider Social Media: Search trends lean towards more and more emphasis on the social media sphere, so it’s worth considering the use of such practices in promoting your business.
If you discontinue membership:
If we have created a Google Places Listing for you and verified it, it will remain online, but we strongly suggest you claim it into your own account. Your other listings will be left to expire a year after creation, unless you specify that you are closing your business, in which case we can close the listings outright.
Rich M – TherapySites Support
Email any questions to [email protected]
Most of our members have a physical location that clients/customers/patients come to. For such businesses, promotion works more or less the same whether they are running a Dentist office, Animal Hospital, Haberdashery or donut shop; as long as you say who you are, what you do and where you are, people can figure out how to come to you.
If you don’t have a physical office you wish to publicize, it’s extra important to clarify how your business works. If people don’t come to you, how DO they interact with you? Remember, you want it to be as easy as possible for clients to contact and do business with you, so make sure that no guesswork is involved with the process.
When your clients are the only ones you want to find you.
If you do have a physical location, there may still be something about your business, clients or office location which requires keeping the location private. The most common example of this is a home office, but there are many circumstances where this is the case.
This is the trickiest situation to give general advice about, because no matter how much I know about business promotion and marketing, I don’t know much- or anything- about your specific situation. Promoting your home address may very well be dangerous, may be awkward, or could be a complete non-issue; so please, consider our advice with all factors in mind, check in with your own thoughts and those who know your specific situation, and feel free to contact us with specific questions.
Unfortunately, privacy concerns are usually counter to effective business promotion. No public address often means no public listings, and a lack of address may affect your Search Engine results. If you don’t want to share your exact location, provide as much other information as possible, even having city, state and zip is more helpful than no address information at all. Some of our members with home offices list their street name without a number, or substitute a neighborhood or district that the office is in. This allows a context and some idea for a client to know how convenient a trip to see you could be.
Whatever information you do share, make it clear on your website what a client should (and perhaps shouldn’t) do to contact you, and what the next steps would be. If it is relevant to explain why you keep your address secret, you can divulge this later on, it’s not important to state on the website.
When you come to your clients…
If your business model is not based on people coming to you, but you make house calls, do presentations at offices, deliver goods or services, or anything where you come to the client or customer, it’s still important to mention both your general location and where you’re ready, willing and able to travel.
If you do have a physical address you can share, it actually proves more helpful for Search Engines, listings, and client knowledge to have a business access on your website and listings IN ADDITION to a list of areas served and/or distance that you travel.
Many small business owners are under the incorrect impression that showing their address information will somehow hurt other aspects of their business. In general, more information is better than less, and your website works best when you can anticipate client questions and answer them. The key is to be as user-friendly as possible, and take the guesswork out of starting a business relationship.
When you never actually meet your clients in person…
Promoting a business that focuses on online or over-the-phone consultations is different than promoting a “brick and mortar” business.
If you supplement client interactions by calls, Skype or what have you, you’re still best off promoting your business address and making it clear that you ALSO offer these additional methods of contact.
It can’t hurt to use your office on your website or listings even if you never expect clients to come to you; a common misconception is that having an address shown minimizes your appeal for phone or online consultations. At worse, this information is just tangential, but it likely can help establish your presence and credibility. It also can improve your presence in Search Engine Results pages.
Another advantage of having your location, even if nobody comes to you, is that it’s one of many factors that makes you unique. A great example of this is a life coach whose website I helped promote. He only did counseling by Skype, because he specialized in working with people who lived in small towns in Alaska. The very point of much of his work was helping people cope with living with the isolation, loneliness, and other unique problems that such a life could involve. He lived hundreds of miles from most of his clients, but by being in the same situation, he knew their experience first hand.
Our members work in fields where personality can be crucial, and where you come from, and are, may be seen as part of your personality. Is your way of thinking and doing business influenced by big city living or small town ways? Is your style East Coast, West Coast, Middle America? Is this something you can use to your advantage?
Once again, however you work with clients, you want to make sure your website clearly explains the situation and process. Don’t expect clients to call you because they’d like to learn if you do telephone consultations, because your website and other promotion should make that clear. Your method of doing business should be presented as a selling point, not something websites viewers should have to wonder about or hunt for.
Think about it; if you had the choice between businesses, and one explained how to work with them and the other didn’t, which business would you pick? It’s always worth a few minutes of your time to make sure your website and other promotional material is the best and most informative that it can be, it pays off in the long run.
Rich M – CoachingWebsites Support
Email any questions to [email protected]
Where’s Waldo? You know him, the goofy-looking guy in the red and white striped shirt and cap. Even though he’s often lost in the crowd you know exactly what to look for to find him. But what if, unbeknownst to us, Waldo got a makeover in every new puzzle? What if the red and white stripes were traded for blue and gold? Sure, after some hunting we might still be able to pick him out of the crowd, but would we be sure it was him? Would we recognize that signature Waldo style?
Those red and white stripes are looking pretty important now, aren’t they? The same principle comes into play when we search for things on the web. If your potential clients are searching for a specific term, you want to make sure you’ve used it on your site! But how do you know what those terms are that people are looking for?
Now there is a way to connect the dots between what you can offer and what the client is really searching for. Google Trends gives a behind the scenes peek into how your potential clients are using the web.
That helps you in two ways:
1. “Hot Searches” provide an overview of the most popular searches in the country for any given date. This can be helpful in staying up to date on current new and events and allows you to capitalize on the opportunity when something related to your field is being discussed. Is there a surge in searches for life coaching for success because of a special report on the news? Take advantage of that by writing on article on the topic and putting your expertise out there.
2. “Explore Trends” – with this tool, you are able to test keyword popularity and cross-test synonyms. For example, if you knew that the term “life coach” was 29% more commonly searched in your area than the term “career coach,” you could use the word “life coach” to theoretically generate 29% more leads than if you chose to use the word “career coach.” Do searches in your town usually search for “Group Coaching” or “Coaching for Groups?” You can use this tool to find out:
But be careful! Sometimes the most popular search term isn’t always the best. Why? One word – Competition.
If you have two search terms where one is more popular but has lots of competition for the front page, and another which is not quite as popular but will be easier to lock up a top result – you want to grab that top result!
But if all things are equal, and you think you can get that top spot – go for the term with more traffic!
So what are your red and white stripes? Check out this free tool today to find out!
For more tips on Search Engine Optimization, and to optimize your site for the new keywords you’ve identified with Google Trends, check out our other SEO articles, or contact the SEO team today!
The CoachingWebsites SEO team
Email any questions to [email protected]
We’ve all done it – we Google ourselves to try and see what information comes up, or where our business website appears in search results. That’s good! It can help you to position yourself. But are you searching for the same terms a client will search for? Are you searching for both the specialization AND the location you serve? If you are that’s great, as it gives you a more realistic diagnostic of how effectively your Search Engine Optimization is working for you! — but now – do the pages on your website reflect the information gained from your searches?
The goal of our Search Engine Optimization is to make sure your site gets seen by people who might be interested in your services. This may seem obvious, but often when considering Search Engine Optimization, we forget the “people who might be interested in your services” component. If you are providing health care in New York City, you ideally want visitors to your site who are looking for health care in New York City, and surrounding areas.
One way to accomplish this is through well placed keywords. Ensuring that you “target” the keywords you use on your site can be a crucial step in the Search Engine Optimization process. By picking the right keywords for your area and your specialties, you can not only raise your online visibility, but bring in more potential clients! First, I’ll demonstrate how targeted keywords produce better search results, than I’ll show you how to take advantage of targeted key phrases in your SEO.”
I recently moved down to Berkeley, CA from Oregon, and realized that I had left my favorite running shoes at my old house! I knew that I could go on one of the many popular online shoe stores available, but I still prefer to try shoes on in a shop to make sure that they fit well. I went to Google and searched for “Shoes,” only to discover that there were over one billion results!
I quickly realized that I was going to have to focus my search if I were going to find any actual shoes. Not only were there too many options (even if I wanted to go through 0.01% of the results!), but I also quickly noticed that sites were popping up for everything related to shoes: stores, fashion, design, etc.
While these results were interesting, I really was only concerned about finding shoe stores! Therefore, the first step to focusing my search was to change the search from the general “Shoes” to “Shoe stores.” The addition of this one word immediately reduced my search from over a billion, to just over eighteen million results!
Better, but there is a good chance I was still missing out on something. The results here are going to be shoe stores across the country, and even the world. I was interested specifically shoe stores in the San Francisco bay area.
I could easily stop there, but because I am primarily interested in finding running shoes, I decided that it might be wise to include that in the search terms, to find stores that specifically specialize in athletic shoes.
There we go. From the original search for “Shoes” that came back with over one billion results, I am now down to under 500,000!
While this example is a little goofy, it demonstrates how a potential client might find your website, starting with the broadest terms, and refining from there. Keywords with a greater degree of specificity are more useful both to you as a website owner, and to the individual browsing the web.
What are targeted keywords?
Targeted keywords are words or phrases that include more information than the most general possible phrasing, “targeted” to what a user is actually searching for. In the above example the generic “shoes” was not targeted, but each subsequent search incorporated a more refined targeting.
Why are targeted keywords important for me, and how can we use them?
At this point, you may be saying, “Chris, that is great information, and I can see how a user might want to incorporate more targeted keywords when searching the internet, but how does this help me, the website owner?” Targeted keywords are critical to successful Search Engine Optimization because they allow you to directly connect with an audience that is searching for you, your location and your specialties.
A properly optimized website for a shoe store in Berkeley may not come up in the first page (or first ten pages!) in a Google search for the term “shoes.” It will, however, be highly ranked when doing a targeted search for the relevant terms (e.g., “Berkeley Shoe Store,” “Bay Area Shoes”).
The easiest way to incorporate these targeted keywords into your site, is to directly include them in page content (or sidebar) itself. As the owner of a shoe store in Berkeley, I would make sure that my site prominently mentioned that we proudly served Berkeley, and the greater Bay Area. Such information is helpful not only to human visitors who are looking for more information regarding your practice, but also the machines who are determining where to place your site in their search results!
These are just a couple of ways to incorporate targeted keywords into your website design. By focusing on keywords that both target your locality and your specialties, you can help drive not only more traffic to your site, but also “better” traffic—that is, clients in your area, who are more likely to contact you! Expect further blog articles from us in the coming weeks documenting additional ways to utilize targeted keywords, and other Search Engine Optimization practices. If you have any questions about how to specifically integrate targeted keywords onto your CoachingWebsites site, just send us an email, or give us a call, and any of our Search Engine Optimization technicians would be happy to help!
Chris C – CoachingWebsites Support and SEO
Email any questions to [email protected]
Do you every wonder what it takes to show up on the first page of search results in a search engine? Maybe you have heard the term SEO and wondered “What do Slightly Eccentric Orangutans have to do with better rankings in search engine results for my website?” Of course, I jest in regards to the primates, yet I still remember the first time I sat down to optimize my website and how overwhelmed I was by the plethora of different methods and opinions that abounded and were “the only way to get your website on the first page of Google.” I hope that through this blog post as well as the next couple of SEO-centric blog posts, we can shed some light on the mystery that is SEO so you can learn to effectively optimize your website.
To start let us look at the true definition of SEO by asking the question:
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
SEO is the active practice of developing a web site by improving internal and external aspects in order to increase the traffic the site receives from search engines.
As you can see, nothing about orangutans in there, eccentric or otherwise. However, there are three things that are in there that are absolutely important to the optimization of your site.
1. Active practice
2. Internal aspects
3. External aspects
Today we are going to look at some of the basics of SEO and we will be starting with the a few of the “Internal Aspects.” of site optimization. We will look at the “External Aspects” of SEO in a blog post in the near future, however, if there is one thing you take away from this post or any future post about SEO let it be this:
SEO is an active practice.
Just as you would change the oil in your car every three to five thousand miles to prevent engine damage, you need to check your site’s ranking in search engine results as well as using a web site tracker such as Google Analytics and fine tune the internal and/or external optimization of your site’s SEO as needed.
Internal Aspects of Site Optimization
We are going to look at three internal aspects that are required for a successful optimization of your website. (The three steps that are listed below were taken from a blog post written by Dustin Williams on seo.com, The 3 Key Elements To A Successful SEO Campaign.)
1. Keyword Focus
Keyword research is the groundwork for a successful SEO campaign. Doing keyword research in a way that will bring long-term success requires in-depth analysis around all keywords that may be relevant to the products or services of the targeted website. Start with the most general keywords and find long tail keywords (a phrase that contains 2 – 5 keywords) relating to each of them, then search for other long tail keywords relating to each of those. This pattern can be repeated many times to find many keyword opportunities. This strategy will also uncover some highly targeted keywords that will convert (change visitors into customers) well and could be fairly easy to rank for. Don’t forget: Long tail keywords are often less competitive and typically convert much better. It is also a good idea to search for lateral keywords as well. Lateral keywords are those that have the same meaning as other targeted keywords. So if I am optimizing a website about “aquariums,” I would also want to optimize it for the term “fish tanks.”
A great free tool to research keywords is the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. You can use this tool to check and see the local and global competition for keywords and keyword phrases that you are thinking about using to optimize your site.
2. Strong Page Element Optimization
The optimization of the HTML elements on each page of the website is a critical factor in search engine optimization. Targeted search terms should be included in various places in the HTML code to tell the search engine crawlers what the page is about. The following elements must be optimized to allow for a successful SEO campaign.
Page Title: The page title (title tag) should include the targeted search terms and be a well written sentence that is 64 to 70 characters long. It should not be a string of keywords or one keyword phrase repeated several times. Remember that a good page title will not only be keyword targeted but also will entice a person to click on it in the search results.
Page Headings: The page heading (and subheadings) should be formatted properly using H1, H2 and H3 tags and include the targeted search terms. Cascading Style Sheets can be used to format the heading to fit with the content of the webpage. H1 tags are meant to be used for the main page heading and should only be used more than once on a page where it makes sense. H2, H3 and other header tags can be used for content subheadings and headings to site navigation.
Image Alternate Text: Optimize Alt Attributes of images by including targeted keywords where the keywords have some relevance to the image. Alternate text should tell a website visitor what the image is. When optimized, the alternate text can help with keyword rankings for both the webpage and the image in image searches. Do not make your image Alt Attribute extremely long and keyword stuffed. Alternate text should be brief and relate well to the image.
Link Anchor Text: Site content should include links to other pages of the website that have keywords in the anchor text. Adding two or three keyword links into page content of 150 or more words is ideal. Do not fill the page content full of keyword links. Remember that linking in the content more than once to the same page will not give any additional SEO benefits.
I know, the information in this section probably seems like you just had a conversation with an orangutan. However, if you are a TherapySites customer, please feel free to contact the SEO Support team at [email protected] for instruction and assistance on optimizing your page elements for SEO.
Also, for further information on optimizing your pages for search engines, visit the links below:
3. Good Quality Page Content
A website with good quality content will be one step closer to getting top search engine rankings. The search engines are constantly trying to improve the quality of the search results. The one way to be sure to always be relevant when algorithms are updated is to provide content that search engines will consider high quality. That kind of content is not copied from other websites. It is unique, specific, and provides value to a site visitor. Writing guides, fact sheets, frequently asked questions, common misconceptions and practical use articles that are clean, simple to read, and incorporate the keywords and keyword phrases you have chosen to optimize your site with are all great ways to add good content to a website. Keep in mind that having great content will not only give the search engines a good idea of what the website is about but will also give other webmasters a good reason to link to your website.
Today we have learned that SEO has nothing to do with primates. The three things we need to focus on when developing the internal aspects of our site optimization are keyword focus, page element optimization, and quality page content. Last, and most importantly, SEO is an active practice and must be checked and maintained.
I hope you now have some insight on how to get started with optimizing your site. If you are a TherapySites customer and you have any questions or would like your site reviewed for SEO, please contact us at [email protected].
Nathan S – TherapySites Support and SEO
Email any questions to [email protected]
Choosing the domain name for your website can be much like deciding on a name for your offspring. To help remove some of the pressure of this far-reaching decision, we would like to share some tips for obtaining the ideal domain name (website address) for your business.
A domain name ideally will be short. Some classic examples of short, distinctive domains: google.com, yahoo.com, and youtube.com. An example of a domain we would not recommend: extremelyfineprecisionwidgetsinc.com. This is more difficult to say in a phone conversation, more complicated so it is less memorable, and more difficult to use on a business card than necessary. An email address using this domain (such as [email protected]) would have to be printed very small or on more than one line of a business card, and may also be difficult to fit in the website content. Also, any domain longer than 32 characters cannot be used in a Google AdWords campaign and there are other similar restrictions which might limit the domain’s usefulness later.
A domain name should be memorable. A domain name for our example company Very Fine Precision Widgets Inc. might use the acronym form efpwi.com and this would certainly be short, but this sequence of letters would not be memorable to most people. The domain using the full name extremelyfineprecisionwidgetsinc.com would be more memorable to someone who already knows the company name, but is very long and probably would be difficult to remember for most people if the company name was not familiar to them. A much better domain would be widgets.com if this were available.
For a private professional’s website, we recommend that the domain name evoke somehow the name of your business. A “discoverable” domain is one which might be guessed from a word or words having to do with the domain’s topic, such as slideshow.com or hardware.com. For a company called “Widgets Inc.”, the domain name widgetsinc.com would be easily discovered. On the other hand, a “brandable” domain is one that is very distinctive and unlike common words or phrases. Some examples are google.com or oovoo.com. For a brandable domain to be effective, it must be associated indirectly in the minds of the Internet public and this requires large, expensive advertising efforts. For a private professional it’s best to avoid “brandable” domains unless they match your business name.
Competition for Domains
On the topic of finding an available domain: while we recommend that you use a domain made up of the shortest possible version of your company name and “.com,” it may not be possible to obtain this domain. Domains are registered on a first-come, first-served basis and many of the most obvious domains are already in use. Of the registered domains, many have been snatched up by “domain squatters” who purchase domains betting on the likelihood that at least some or most of them will be valuable to somebody so that the squatter can re-sell them for a higher price. If the domain you most want to use is already registered, and it does not appear to be in use for its ostensible topic (there is just a placeholder page or links to other sites), you may want to try negotiating to purchase the domain. To do this: (1) find who has registered the domain using a “whois” free service such as easywhois.com, (2) contact the registrant to ask them if they will sell the domain, and (3) if they are willing to sell it, negotiate a purchase price. They will generally start with a high bid, and can almost always be talked down to a much lower price.
In the United States, .com is the standard TLD (“Top Level Domain” or the last letters after a period in a domain name, indicating the “level” of the domain) that Internet users associate with domain names for businesses. Other TLDs can be used, however it is not usually recommended unless it is unavoidable in obtaining your best possible domain name. Business owners in other countries may wish to use the TLD for their particular country to emphasize their location (.fr for France, .uk for United Kingdom, etc.).
You can use the .net or .org domain if the .com domain you want is not available, however it is important to note that most people think of .net as a TLD for network technology companies such as Internet Service Providers and .org as one for non-profit organizations. It is controversial as to whether it would be better to use a .biz or .info domain, since these are lower-priced and therefore often abused by spammers. If you are comfortable appropriating a .net or .org for your business, one of these may be the best option. According to many experts, any of these four can be a good alternative to a .com domain.
Domains with Characters
Domains can contain only letters, numbers, hyphens, and the period before the TLD. This is reasonable on a number of fronts, for instance special characters intended to be used for specific linking purposes would be ineffective if they were allowed in domain names. Speaking of hyphens, it is not usually recommended that you use one in your domain. When a domain name is given verbally, for example “widgets inc dot com” most people will associate this with widgetsinc.com not widgets-inc.com. There are a few circumstances where it might be advisable to use a hyphen. One example: if unable to register widgetsinc.com, widgets-inc.com could be used as an alternative. This however opens the risk that potential customers will go to a different site, whenever the domain is not carefully given in conversation or they forget to use the hyphen. Another circumstance: at times, letters in a domain name may spell other words with unintended meanings. A real-life example: the site experts-exchange.com, a subscription site for technology information, was originally expertsexchange.com which many people saw as “expert sex change” not “experts exchange.” While humorous, this was not desirable for the service in terms of gaining new customers!
While we’re talking about a domain’s character: when choosing a domain it is a good idea to keep in mind how it will be conveyed in a spoken conversation especially in phone calls. Are there a lot of letters which sound like other letters, such as T/P or S/F? Would it be difficult or complicated to say?
It is easy to check available domains. You can go to the website of a domain registrar and use their search feature. For example, you could go to Instant Domain Search and use the search box in the left of the screen. If the domain name you entered is not available, the site will make some suggestions for alternates.
Checking for Trademark
There may be no consequence to skipping this step, but it can be very regrettable at times if not done: checking for existing trademark. If you infringe someone else’s trademark, they may be able to legally prevent you from continuing to use the domain name after you have worked to get it ranked favorably in search engines. You can check the copyright.gov website to find whether someone else is already using a trademark identical to or similar to text in the intended domain.
Search Engines Save the Day
If you cannot get your ideal domain name, take heart: in most cases, an Internet user will use a search engine such as Google to find your site if they cannot remember the domain name or if they reach a site which is obviously not for your business. We offer quite a bit of assistance in getting your site to appear prominently in searches for terms related to your location and services.
If you would like to use our website hosting, we would be very happy to suggest potential website addresses for your site and register a domain for you. Just give us a call or send an email!
Tim L – CoachingWebsites Support
Email any questions to [email protected]
The second half of our Internet Futurism series will focus on the emerging technology of “Social Search.” Social search is the most significant change in the landscape of search since Google introduced the first generation of Page Rank more than a decade ago. Google won their dominance by creating an algorithmic search ranking system, and now they are reintroducing the human factor.
So what is social search? And why is it going to be so important?
Let’s step back a moment.
Perhaps one of the most unexpected social developments following the widespread adoption of the Internet was the immediate gravitation towards micro-communities. Many people envisioned the Internet as the ultimate unifier. They predicted that it would unite the whole world into a single, global community: erasing borders, and breaking down notions of censorship and national identity. Instead, something very different happened. Yes, geographical boundaries were broken, but this did not lead to a single world-wide community. Instead, micro-communities emerged organized purely around common interest, instead of being based on the happenstance of geography.
These micro-communities reflect some striking similarities to small agrarian communities, artist colonies, or Utopian communes, however in many ways they represent something very “new.” This has social consequences both positive and negative. In these communities people can essentially pick and choose their neighbors. This provides a tremendous unity of interest and purpose, but reduces exposure to conflicting ideas, and polarizes and alienates other points of view.
So what the heck does that have to do with search results?
10 years ago, the game in search results was to provide the best universal rankings for content no matter what the user’s interest or location. If the search query was about snowmobiles, it was Google’s job to find the very best website on snowmobiles in the world, and make that the first result for everyone.
But recently, the search engine companies have gotten wise to the notion of community. About five years ago, this was reflected in a shift to delivering search results tailored to your physical location. Now Google’s job was to find the best website about snowmobiles in California and make that the number one result for Californians.
But as we’ve seen above, this notion of community based on physical location is outmoded on the web. It doesn’t stand up in these communities of “chosen neighbors.” Now search engines are realizing that the real prize is is in these communities. Now it’s Google’s job to connect the Vintage Snowmobile-ers’ Community with vintage snowmobiling websites, to connect vacation and ski resort lovers to more casual snowmobile rental websites, to connect younger communities to snowmobile video games, etc. To each community according to their need and interest.
Instead of providing the best universal rankings, a search engine now has to provide the best community rankings.
How are search engines accomplishing this?
The problem with trying to provide community-oriented search results is that most scenarios aren’t quite as straightforward as the “snowmobile lovers” examples outlined above. The most common kinds of communities aren’t neatly organized around a single interest (e.g., snowmobile lovers), but rely on complex interactions of interest and individual/demographic differences (e.g., teenage vintage snowmobile lovers from California).
The other problem is that is that every individual has cultivated their own unique portfolio of communities overlapping with those of their friends. It’s very rare for one person’s list of Facebook friends to be exactly the same as someone else’s. There will be a large amount of overlap, but even when friends and common interests overlap 90%, the remaining 10% difference between 2 individuals reflects membership in completely different communities.
Search engines are having a very difficult time targeting results to these nebulous communities algorithmically. Instead, they are resorting to re-injecting human influence into search results, and going about it in a few different ways.
1 – Direct influence: under a direct influence model of social search, members of one’s community can directly affect the search results that will be presented to other members of that community. Google’s +1 search results system can be considered a direct influence method.
2 – Secondary influence: a secondary influence model does not involve community members deliberately “voting up” certain search results. Instead it looks for “buzz.” Are some results being tweeted by members of a certain community? Did this link get passed around among your Facebook friends? If the search engines see this kind of activity they can use this as the basis for adjusting the search results for these communities.
Until very recently, Google only operated on a partial, secondary influence model. They looked for “hot topics” on social networking services, and bumped their results. But these were still largely universal ranking changes, not targeted specifically at the communities that produced this buzz in the first place. Indeed, Google had little relevance in these arenas, because the source of these ranking changes came from within these existing communities. People were already finding these links through shared Facebook posts…not through Google searches. Google was following, rather than anticipating, trends.
In response, Google tried to implement a method of direct influence. With Google +1(not to be confused with Google+, which we’ll discuss shortly), any user who found a search result they like can vote it up, so that their friends would see it in a higher position if they were searching for something similar. However, the adoption rate on this was poor, and it required that Google users organize themselves into communities, which at the time, they had little motivation to do…
…until Google+ came out.
As Google’s direct competitor to Facebook, Google+ integrates both their direct and secondary influence models of social search, within a social network that users will happily participate in. The concept of “Circles” (Google+’s version of Friend groups) is an explicit realization of this idea: a portfolio of communities. Users are now organizing themselves into these community groups within Google’s system, anything they share can now be realized in direct influence, rather than just secondary influence on the results of their fellow community members. It’s going to be a very different landscape.
It’s a very exciting time. More and more the Internet is being designed to “know” what you want, and to predict what you’ll be looking for. This could be an incredible tool for strengthening these micro-communities, but they’ll only make these communities more insular. Furthermore, the overarching privacy concerns that this raises are not insignificant, and should not be taken lightly.
What does all of this mean to you, the small business owner?
Increasingly, the web is becoming community driven. Participation in these communities is no longer something extra that a business owner can do. Very soon, it will be absolutely necessary.
Tim L – CoachingWebsites Support
Email any questions to [email protected]