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Monday, October 30, 2006

Article - SEO - What's in a name?

What's in a name?

Every website begins with a name – a domain name. Choose wisely and you’ll have taken your first step towards SEO. Where as an ill thought out or ‘wrong’ URL will hinder your SEO attempts and maybe even cost you traffic and sales.

So how can you choose wisely? What do you need to consider when choosing a domain and how exactly does picking the right one increase your chances?

Simple is best: Long URL’s are harder to remember, leave more room for spelling mistakes, and pose design nightmares for your website as well as your stationary. The exception is when it’s a well known phrase e.g. iwantoneofthose.co.uk
Keeping it short makes it easier to remember – especially important if you’re going to be doing a lot of radio or press advertising where potential visitors may only get a glimpse of your advert.

Is it related? This may sound silly but a URL that says what it is you do not only catches the eye of browsers but also search engines e.g. Fabulousphotogifts.co.uk which also includes metatags. If your keywords are in your site URL as well as your title, that’s an extra brownie point in the eyes of the search engines.

Don’t try to be too clever. You may think it’s marvellous, but if no-one else gets the joke, then the joke could be on you. Think about your target audience – using a slang term for your URL will only mean something to those that know – e.g. specific groups or sports etc. Ticklebetweenthelegs.com might be a great name for your cricket fanzine but equally can portray an entirely different sort of site.

I get asked this one a lot – do I use a hyphen or not? I personally think its bad advice to use hyphens in a URL unless it’s a phrase people specifically associate as having a hyphen in it and even then you’re not safe. 9 times out of 10, people will type a URL without hyphens even when you spell it out in conversation to them. Then there’s reproduction in print – will it be clear enough or just look like a chip stain?

So many sites loose visitors because the visitors get the URL wrong in the first place and so never arrive. They may well arrive at another site and buy from there instead. You’ll be relying on active links from other websites and Google listings to get it right. Even giving the name in conversation, make sure the person knows what a hyphen is and where to find it on the keyboard (yes look now – it’s next to the zero key without shift being pressed)

I read a very interesting piece that suggested .com or .net were the only domain extensions to consider (it was written for an American publication) and again is another constantly asked question. If you trade in the UK, your customers are in the UK etc, then what’s wrong with a .co.uk extension? I think it actually helps people identify with you being from their own country (whether that’s actually the case or not). You may want to appear world conquering with a .com but for the UK or other country specific business, this could have adverse effects.

With thanks to an article by D Baldwin which confirmed my own thoughts and led to me putting digit to keyboard myself.

Jonathan – Purple 13.

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