What’s in a Name?

by Peter Thorpe

roseAccording to William Shakespeare, a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet…

This might be true in the horticultural world but when it comes to cyberspace - a bad domain name can really stink!

This explains why names like wallstreet.com sold for $US1 million and the name business.com sold for around $US7.5 mil. And it was reported in the German press that the domain name sex.com was for sale for $US85 million. It was later revealed this was thought to be a publicity stunt to attract attention to the site. However, it’s indicative of the enormous value people place on a catchy domain name.

So, why would companies pay such unbelievably high prices just for a domain name, which cost just a few dollars originally?

The answer is simple: There is absolutely no point in being on the Internet unless people can find you. Why spend thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars building a website if nobody comes?

Other major reasons

Having a simple, easy to remember domain name is paramount. A short, snappy name that says, who you are and what you do, makes good marketing sense. But there’s a whole lot more to it than that. Having the right domain name can save you millions of dollars in advertising and promotion.

How?

Chances are most of the visitors to your website will have found your details in what is known as a search engine. Depending upon the industry you’re in and how well you promote your website off-line, typically, as much as 80 to 95 per cent of your website traffic will come to you from the results of a search engine.

This is where positioning becomes so critical. If your website doesn’t come up in the first 30 to 40 results on any given search, chances are you won’t get much traffic to your site at all. But with over a billion web pages out there and millions more being added every month, getting a good position in the search engines is getting harder and harder by the minute.

Here’s where your domain name becomes so important. Many of the search engines use the relevance of the words in your domain name as one of the important criteria. Therefore, it makes good sense to have a domain name that uses the key words somebody might type into a search engine to find your product or service.

For instance, if you go to Google and type the word, ‘travel’ you will get over a billion results. That’s right, I said Billion with a B! Imagine your chances of getting to the first page of thast lot!

If you look closely, you will notice that at the top of the list many of the website addresses contain the word, ‘travel’ in their name. It’s no guarantee of success but it certainly helps. When I searched just now, while writing this article, travel.com.au came up number one out of over a billion!

Search engine optimisation

So, what does it take to get a prominent position with the search engines? (Lots of money if you want to pay a specialist to do it for you). Firstly, you need to understand how search engines work.

Most search engines use a complicated set of criteria to decide where to place you on the list. This varies from engine to engine but it generally includes things like, looking at what is known as your ‘meta tags.’ These are key words and phrases that are not seen by the normal visitor, they should be put there by your web designer.

They also look at the relevance of words and phrases contained in the text of your pages and even things like links to your site. Yes, many major search engines now use the number of websites linked to your website, as a criteria for positioning you. The theory being, the more links people have to your site, the more popular and relevant your site is.

A double edged sword

Of course, bear in mind, links are always a double edged sword. ie It will bring more people to your site but it will also encourage more people to leave your site and go to somebody else’s. Nevertheless, if you don’t have any or many links to your site, you might want to start working on that by seeking reciprocal links (you link to their site and they link to yours).

How do you do that?

Usually by just asking. Seek out websites that have a common interest or synergy with your own site and contact them to see if they are interested in having a reciprocal link. Chances are people already have links to your site that you are not even aware of.

How do you find out who has a link on their site to your site? Easy.

Go to Yahoo! Site Explorer: http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/au/
and type: link:yourdomainname.com.au

They will do a quick search and turn up the names of all the people who have links to your site (those that are listed in their database anyway and that’s most sites). Give it a try. You may get some surprises (pleasant or unpleasant).

By the way, Pizza Hut in the USA have a great system for using links to their advantage. They give a FREE pizza to anyone who links to their site! If you want to see how well this works, go toGoogle and type “PIZZA” as your search. Guess who comes up on page one every time!

So, back to your domain name.

Apart from the search engine aspect, think about it. If I was looking for a travel site, www.travel.com.au (or .com) immediately springs into my mind. How about you? This type of instant recognition and recall is worth big dollars in today’s competitive Internet marketplace.

So, what’s in a name?

Well, if you want to come up smelling like roses on the internet – absolutely everything!