Does my choice of web address or email impact my chances of success online?
100% yes, and in ways you may not realise.
We’ve all sat behind a white van in a traffic jam and noticed the unique email address of Fred The Plumber……Fredsmith1036@freeolacheapwebsites.com.
And despite being in need of a plumber, we haven’t had enough time to memorise or a big enough piece of paper to jot down that catchy little email. So poor old Fred loses some business for sure, and he won’t be alone.
The reasons for keeping such a dodgy address (when you could upgrade to something memorable like FredsFastPlumbers.co.uk for less than a tenner) are many and varied.
- Cost is one reason. Why pay anything when you can get it for free?
- History is another. Fred may have had his email address since the New Millennium so is attached to it and by now it’s printed on his business cards, van, letterheads, invoices, etc. He is probably also under the misapprehension that lots of customers and prospects will have jotted it down. Trust me, they won’t – life’s too short.
Web addresses can often be equally esoteric – my bugbear at the moment is nigh on impossible to remember website Trivago (I had to look it up). Let’s just say it’s a good job I’m not travelling anywhere!
Because most good web addresses have been snapped up years ago by competitors or cyber squatters (wanting a king’s ransom fee to release them) many businesses end up picking addresses with hyphens, plurals, and other things which make them harder to recall. This all pushes your prospective customers elsewhere.
Far more common with websites is the use of a poorly chosen top-level domain (TLD). This is the bit at the end of the domain that in most cases denotes the country of origin and hosting but increasingly can be used to reflect specialisms, such as TV, Café, and Photography. At the last count, there were 1,498 choices of TLD, the most popular being .com (which whilst being American tends to denote an international, grown-up online business) and co.uk.
Quite aside from the fact that most of these 1,498 won’t be familiar to prospect customers and hence they may be less than keen to jot them down or type them in, it’s only natural that the search engines won’t give equal weight or importance to every TLD when it comes to allocating resources to crawl and analyse them. Why would they?
- Let’s take food as an example and assume we have an interest in Food Photography. Let’s try typing that into Google.com and co.uk. No surprises – food photography resources appear and are skewed to where Google thinks you are. What you won’t see is food.com high up the rankings, food.co.uk appears to be held by a cyber squatter and food.photography appears nowhere despite having relevant content.
In short, Google and other engines are preferring to list websites with good relevant content rather than assuming the URL is a shortcut to the result. A good URL can help, but it’s not enough alone.
So what can you do about this?
Assuming we don’t have access to a time machine to go back and snap up the best URLs (and their associated email addresses as you should always have an address that mirrors your business site, not some freebie from Hotmail or worse) then it’s important to:
- Pick something as short as possible
- Preferably memorable (unless you have millions of VC investors’ money to waste on advertising)
- Pick an obvious spelling if you can
- Try and avoid plurals, and only use hyphens as a last resort
- Pick a TLD that either represents where you host the website (which should be where you do most business) or that you’ve at least heard of
Some specialist sectors have TLD’s of restricted use and hence they tend to get priority in the search engine analysis. Dot Org was originally intended for many kinds of organisations but has been pretty much hijacked by academia and not for profits – as such it still enjoys some preferential treatment but no prospective customers will be happy typing it for a selling business.
Most of these tips won’t of course help in overcrowded markets so you need to be creative. Let’s go back to the food example. It would be easy to merge common words into something still memorable and easy to spell……MyFood.com or FreeFoodRecipes.com might be available still.
There are also some weird quirks to help.
- We have long held the belief (and its yet to be proven wrong) that because of the way early databases worked and gave priority to numbers over alpha characters when searching if you add a number into your URL, but early on, it could just help you score better in Google even if its harder for customers to remember. So the best scenario would be where the business name lends itself to this approach.
www.1stAlarms.co.uk might be a good example but as we’ve said you also need good content – and before you check it out this URL has also been grabbed by a squatter which kind of proves our point!
So, the wrong choice of URL and associated email address will definitely hold your business back and it’s not so easy to solve, but it is worth taking time to think about how your customers might react to this aspect of your business positioning.
- And please don’t be tempted to snap up lots of dodgy addresses and build microsites to grab traffic or redirect it to your main website. This will get your business banned or at the very least penalised in the Search engines – there is nothing wrong with buying the URLs (to stop others) or even using them, but how you do it is the job of specialist online marketing agencies like ourselves. Give us a call if you have microsite worries!
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