Business strategies for your Franchise you should not ignore

Outside forces and new technologies dramatically affect what happens to your Franchise. You don’t have to respond on a whim, but keep your eyes wide open when major changes occur.

Here are some marketing and business trends that are important to Franchises:

The Cloud – Although social media and mobile get more buzz, the great change-maker for franchises comes from the cloud. Using Internet-based applications to run your business rather than locating those applications on your servers or hard drives sounds pretty liberating, doesn’t it?

Going to the cloud is transformative. You gain powerful functionality, you can spend more of your time on your business and less on your infrastructure.  Now that YOU are mobile, you can access your applications and data from virtually anywhere.  Having your customer contact management, email marketing and document storage is essential. Continue reading

Start Moving to HTML5 Now and Don’t Be Left Behind

It is time to leave rich media browser plug-ins like Flash and Silverlight and start adopting HTML5. Here are the advantages and opportunities for why Franchise Marketers should consider leaving rich media browser plug-ins like Flash and Silverlight and adopting HTML5:

Future is HTML5

  • Adobe and Microsoft have announced the discontinuation of their rich media browser plug-ins: http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/27328/
  • You’re essentially using HTML5 today. Unlike the failed XHTML 2.0 specification, HTML5 is an evolution of HTML4/XHTML 1.0. You know most of it already. There are 28 additional tags and a few new techniques, but you won’t be using a completely new mark-up language.
  • HTML5 is the future and is ‘mobile” friendly.
  • Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera support HTML5 today.

These are some HTML5 Features you should be using RIGHT NOW without worrying about clashing with older browsers: JETBRAINS WEBSTORM.

Bottom line is that anything that allows simpler, cleaner code and cleaner simpler marketing is going to adhere better to SEO best practices, which the ElementsLocal software platform supports, and you should too.

Free Webinar on Effectively Leveraging Google Tools

Paul Segreto President & CEO of franchisEssentials teams with Jeremy LaDuque CEO of ELEMENTS Inc. to discuss how businesses and specifically franchise companies can use the free tools that Google offers to improve their online marketing efforts.

10 Things Franchises Can Do to More Effectively Leverage Google Tools
Tuesday June 21st, 2011 at 9:00 AM PST

Click Here to Sign Up Now

This webinar will cover Google’s tools for better productivity, improved local search results, mobile tools, analytics products and more.  This webinar will also discuss Google’s new ‘+1′ button which is brand new and a hot topic in SEO.

Sign-up now because there is limited seating and spots are filling up quickly.  For more information on this free webinar, please visit our webinar information page.

How Can Franchises Take Advantage of Everything Google Offers?

Google is the most popular search engine in the world for a few good reasons. Its simple uncluttered interface, vast number of webpages and great results are among the top reasons.

But that’s not all Google has to offer and we find Franchise businesses using Google more and more to market and advertise, enhance their social media and mobile marketing, analyze their website traffic and even optimize and split test how effective the conversion is on their websites.

So ELEMENTS has decided recommend some of the hottest Google tools we see Franchises using today. ELEMENTS will also be conducting a FREE webinar on this topic on June 21st (click here to sign up >>).

Local Search & Advertising

1) Google Places

One of the largest impacts to the local search arena stems from Google Places, an online local directory of businesses. Most importantly, Google Places is no longer a separate search product anymore. Google now displays Google Place’s search results blended directly into Google’s general or “Everything” search when the search terms indicate that the end user might be looking for a product or service that can be satisfied locally.

Google Places Local Blend

Franchises now must ensure all of their locations are setup properly and optimized in Google Places in order to show up when people perform searches that can be satisfied locally.

2) Google AdWords Location Extensions

AdWords is Google’s PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising platform. Google has added location extensions to their AdWords system which allows the owner of the advertisement to display their advertisements to specified locations. Location extensions help make the consumer aware that the product or service they are looking for can be fulfilled locally.

3) Google Keyword Tool and Google Trends

By using Google’s free Keyword Tool, companies are better able to determine what keywords people are searching for and which keyword term targets would just waste their website’s valuable real estate. To receive top rankings in Google a company must play by their rules, expand their offerings and monetizing the marketability of their products or services. Getting traffic is great, but converting traffic into sales or leads is the true goal of the SEO game.

The Google Trends Tool can help your company determine search traffic trends when comparing multiple sets of keywords. For example, the following search comparing Netflix, Block Buster and Hollywood Video shows the dramatic difference in searches for those three businesses:

Google Trends

Social Media

4) Social Signals Effect Rank

Recently both Bing and Google have admitted that mentions of and links to web pages found in public social media postings can positively effect a website’s search engine rankings. The idea behind this is that social media users will share links to websites that they trust and enjoy so the more users sharing these links through social media the more perceived value these websites have. However, not all social media personas carry the same weight. Search engines look at the “social authority” of the user that shared that link and give more value to links shared by users with more credibility.

5) Google +1

At the time of this publication Google +1 is currently in beta testing mode. The idea behind Google +1 is to use one’s social network (Google contacts) for recommendations on which search results they found the most for their own search queries. So if your friend marked a result as valuable, there is good cause for the Google search engine to think that you might like it as well because you both exist within the same social circle.

Today (June 1st), Google has launched their +1 Button which can be added to any website to encourage friend recommendations in the same way that Facebook users can currently “like” a website page. In a way, Google is leveraging its’ entire user-base as quality control staff. While Google states that under the current system recommendations only come from the user’s social network, we can foresee a time when Google will recommend websites from outside of your social circle based on the number of +1’s a website has received and the perceived social authority of the rankee.

Click here for more information on the +1 Button.

6) Google Places Reviews

Earlier we discussed the importance of Google Places to local search. Perhaps the most important factor in getting a Place’s page to rank well is the number of positive reviews a business has in relation to their local competition. The reviews found on Google Places can be drawn from several places. One such place is the social review website Yelp. Google also has its’ own social review system (formally called Hotpot) which has now been integrated directly into Google Places. Both Yelp & Google Places allow users to track reviews and interact with their friends within their social network. According to Google, they now have millions of users rating places more than a million times per month.

7) Google’s Realtime Social Media Search Results

Alongside their Everything and Places search Google has various other search types. One of these variant searches is Google’s Realtime search. Google’s Realtime search results display “up-to-the-second” updates from various social media outlets including news articles, blog posts and Tweets. The search result page is no longer a static listing, but instead updates when a new post relevant to your search query is detected by Google.

These real-time searches can be beneficial for businesses looking to leverage current trends in their marketing efforts or for franchises looking to react quickly to protect their brand when trouble arises.

8) Google’s Algorithmic Changes that Recognize Brands

Social media mentions of a company name will pass along a brand impression for that company. The more mentions of a company’s name Google can find the more likely it is to treat that business as a notable brand. Brands have become an important factor to Google when determining search engine rankings because Google now considers brand name products and services as more trustworthy and therefore ranks brands higher than their non-branded competition.

Franchises can leverage social media to expand their company’s brand impression. Companies should encourage their employees to create personal LinkedIn profiles and link them to their company. Facebook posts & Twitter tweets can now be found in both Google’s Realtime search and its’ Everything search giving more exposure to a company’s brand name than franchises with inactive social media accounts that are not engaging existing or potential customers through those social mediums. Serious and authentic blog commenting with a mention of your company’s brand is just another social media outlet that can garner your brand’s name more exposure.

Aside from social media there are other very useful ways to expose your brand’s name to consumers. Successful offline advertising can have a positive impact on brand recognition. Franchises could even publish an eBook or two about franchising and about their brand which not only will receive mentions from social media and traditional media sources like press releases, but these books can also be found in online libraries like Google Scholar.

Mobile Marketing

9) Google Mobile Location Based Ads

Google AdWords offers location centric mobile advertising to allow local businesses to target leads based on the user’s immediate location. These location based ads offer the interested user an expandable map with turn by directions and a click-to-call phone number. There is some chatter at Google about other new “rich ad units” for mobile coming down the pipe to further leverage the mobile platform, including ads meant specifically for tablet devices.

10) Google Places Offer Mobile Coupons

When customers find a specific local store or service on Google Places through their mobile device, that business can offer digital coupons directly to that device in order to convert that lead into a walk-in customer. Owners of the devices can then show the business their coupon directly on their phone without having to print it out on a piece of paper. One of the best benefits of Google Place’s mobile coupons is that the coupons get distributed for free, unlike many offline paper distribution methods.

Traffic Metrics & Conversion Optimization

11) Google Analytics Traffic & SEO Metrics

Google Analytics is a free traffic reporting tool that allows companies to tunnel deeply into their visitor and website metrics in order to better determine the success of their website. Just some of the valuable visitor and search metrics one can obtain from Google Analytics are the most popular pages on your websites, the keywords that are driving search traffic to your websites, what external websites are sending your website traffic and the level of engagement of your website.

Google Analytics has completely changed how businesses look at their website’s statistics. This free hosted solution makes adding metric tracking to your website a breeze and provides in depth reporting second to none. Along with these valuable benefits, Google Analytics also allows companies to integrate their Google AdWords & Google AdSense campaigns into its reports, to set goals with varying values for conversion tracking and to build custom scheduled statistical reports.

In the franchise space specifically, ELEMENTS has begun using Google Analytics to provide rollup reporting across an entire franchisee network of websites as well as offering franchisees access to their own individual Google Analytics reports.

12) Website Optimizer for Conversion Optimization

The success of a website cannot purely be determined by the number of visitors to a website alone. Most websites have conversion goals like a checkout through their shopping cart or a newsletter sign-up for future targeted marketing. This is where conversion optimization comes into play.

Conversion optimization is the process of altering a page on a website in order to increase the amount achieved goals. Sometimes this can mean changing the call to action text or adding a big green button to the page. Conversion optimization is an art form but with Google’s Website Optimizer almost anyone can learn how to better their conversions on any given page.

In its simplest form, Website Optimizer allows you to create to competing pages and then it splits the traffic between the two pages and determines which page has the best conversion or goal achievement ratio. Website Optimizer also allows a company to alter individual page snippets in order to determine which of these snippets on the page lead to the most conversions.

Google’s New Analytics

While it’s still in Beta, the Google Analytics dashboard is getting a facelift and it’s not all just cosmetic. There are two changes that really interest me, the addition of widgets and the ability to have multiple dashboards.

I have signed up for the beta, but it could take a while until I get access so for now I’m going off of the screenshots I found over at BlogSpot.

google analytics add widget google analytics delete dashboard

From my understanding the widgets will allow you to customize the look and feel of the dashboard.  So you could put in a timeline of views right near the top of the dashboard for those clients most interested in brand awareness or a pie chart of goal success for those clients most interested in goal conversion.  Then with the ability to create custom dashboards you could create both dashboards mentioned above for a single customer in different tabs.

I’m eager to test out the widget options and I’m curious to see if Google will add any new functionality beyond standard charts & graphs and how they work with advanced segments.  For now I’ll watch my inbox for acceptance into the beta program of the new Google Analytics and I’ll report what I find when I get approved.

Google’s Farm Update & How it Affected Franchise Traffic

At the end of February Google released an update to their algorithm that was supposed to penalize and deter content farms (sites that reproduce content from other websites or use low quality content purely for the sake of higher search rankings).  Google claimed that this would affect almost 12% of all US queries.  Some SEO experts have dubbed this algorithm change the “Farm” or “Farmer” update.

Now I’ve seen recent articles out there about the short term effect of the Farm update so I decided to check out some of the Google Analytics I have access to inGoogle Analytics Update Example order to see how a variety of our clients are fairing.  I got a mixed bag of results as you can see in the examples to the left.

While I saw several examples of traffic spiking, falling, bouncing or remaining consistent throughout our network of individual domains more often then not our domains took a noticeable of a dip after February 25th (31% as seen in the bottom example shown) followed by an immediate traffic increase (again in the bottom example shown an increase of over 50% above the average daily traffic). 

It’s all interesting, but what does it really tell us?  A highly trafficked website receives traffic from a variety of sources so a dip in a single traffic referrer - in this case Google - might not show much of a traffic loss.  A small website like our new affiliate blog which receives 90% of its’ inbound traffic from Google would definitely show an impact, but the low traffic volume means that we can’t trust the traffic drop to be directly correlated with the Google Farm update.

For the most part at ELEMENTS we focus on franchise companies which generally have hundreds of websites across the board and we are able to track those websites as a whole.  So how will traffic to 700+ like websites be affected by the Farm update?  Let’s find out.

Franchise A

franchise A traffic

Franchise B

franchise b traffic

Looks to me like there was very little if any effect at all on the overall franchise traffic for these two clients following the February 25th update roll out.  Other franchises I looked up had less than a 10% degree of variance after the Farm update, so thankfully not much changed across our franchise networks.

So who wins and who loses with this new rollout?  That remains to be seen.  Some have reported (EZineArticles for one)  a loss of up to 40% of their traffic since the Farm update went into effect and Mahalo.com which describes itself as a knowledge sharing service has reportedly laid off 10% of their staff in response to the significant dip in traffic & revenue resulting from the Farm update.  On the other hand possible content farms themselves, eHow and Wikipedia are reported to have seen a traffic boost from the update.  My take is that websites with a strong offline brand (perhaps even some online brands) are not going to see much negative effect from the latest update.

How to Best Measure Your ROI Using Google Analytics

Using Google Analytics
(www.google.com/analytics)

Google Analytics is a free service that produces statistics about the visitors to a website. It can track visitors from which search engine or website they were referred by, email marketing, online PDF documents, and pay-per-click networks.

 

 

1. Understanding Traffic Building Behaviors through Statistics

If you know which online campaigns, keywords, and adwords are working and which ones are not, you can focus on the tactics that have been proven successful and change the ones that are not producing sales.

2. How to Build Meaningful Reports

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) help you track what matters. Every industry is different, therefore goals are different. The best way to track KPI’s is to come up the ones that are useful in reaching your goal.

Here are some examples of formulas used with these goals in mind:

  • Have more people visit the website: Visitors > Visitor Trending > Absolute Unique Visitors
  • Ensure there’s a return on marketing efforts: Traffic Sources > AdWords > AdWords Campaigns
  • Have more people buy products and/or services from the website: E-commerce > Conversion Rate
  • Have more people register to be a user on the site: Goals > Conversion Rate
  • Determine your newsletters’ effectiveness: Goals > Conversion Rate
  • Increase the percentage of returning visitors: Visitors > New Vs Returning
  • Increase the number of “branded visits”: Visitors > Visitor Trending > Visits
  • 3. Establish KPI’s that measure ROI

    Albert Einstein brilliantly said, “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result”. The same concept applies to your online marketing efforts. How much return on your investments are you actually getting from your online marketing strategies?

    You need to determine what matters most to you (your conversion matrix) in order to decide what to track. Here are some examples:

    For Brand awareness, things to track include:

    • traffic

    • new visitors

    • time on site

    For Building leads, things to track include:

    • landing page success rates

    • website signups

    • newsletter click throughs

    For Sales, things to track include:

    • conversions to sales

    • abandoned cart percent

    4. What is your Return On Investment for each web initiative?

    • How much is email list acquisition?

    • How much did the newsletter cost to design?

    • How much did it cost to send out?

    The Inbound Advantage: Tips to Evolve Your Franchise’s Marketing Strategy

     In a world where marketing messages abound in nearly every aspect of daily life, a new, discerning consumer has evolved – one adept at filtering and tuning out information irrelevant to personal interests. Rightly so, franchise marketing tactics need to also undergo a major shift, since traditional outbound techniques such as advertising and unsolicited email blasts are increasingly becoming blocked or ignored.

                    “Franchises should focus the majority of their marketing budget on inbound, not outbound initiatives,” said Jeremy LaDuque, CEO of Elements Inc., creator of ElementsLocal™, a new software solution for franchises that increases company leads through maximized search engine results. “When you push your message out far and wide with little discretion, you’re essentially crossing your fingers that it will resonate with a few individuals. Inbound marketing generates leads that are more abundant and credible, as potential customers seeking your services have been attracted organically through search engines, blogs and social media.”

              

    • Get Local. Instead of relying on just one national web site for the entire franchise network, provide cross-linked autonomous and brand-compliant web sites for each location. As the franchisor, you benefit from:

    o    A “network effect” of hundreds of web sites, each displaying relevant content about the company, being seen by search engines, which increases rankings and visibility

    o    An ability to leverage each franchise by allowing franchisees to customize (according to franchisor specifications)  their web site with local content and local e-marketing campaigns

    • Get Optimized. Some simple ways to get started with search engine optimization:

    1)       Focus the attention of each webpage to just a few keywords

    2)       Add relevant content about those select key words to that webpage

    3)       Add those keywords to the title and meta tags of that webpage

     

    Get Social. Social media is the fastest-growing segment of the Internet, and best of all, it’s much less expensive than most other marketing tactics. Get your franchise on board by:

    o    Participating in social media sites such as Facebook and You Tube. Start a corporate Facebook profile and seek out fans or upload informative – or even humorous – videos that have “pass-along” potential, such as an engaging company story or client testimonials. This will help attract more visitors to your web site, increase your exposure within a larger audience and boost your search engine ranking.

    o    Using a blog and/or Twitter to publish information about your business. Gaining “followers” or subscribers not only increases the audience for your company message, but also helps you gain valuable insight from the comments consumers leave on your posts.

    • Get Efficient. Inbound marketing efforts are highly track-able, so employ various strategies to monitor the efficiency of your efforts. This will allow you to repeat what’s working, discontinue what’s not, and gauge what’s providing you with the best return on investment (ROI). Some helpful hints:

    o    First, establish exactly what it is you want to track and make sure you have a way to measure what you want to track

    o    Use statistical programs like Google Analytics to monitor web site traffic behavior – from number of pages viewed to length of time on the site

    o    Use landing pages to track specific ad campaigns and/or marketing initiatives

    o    Track throughout – from campaign to conversion to sale!

                    “As franchises start to ‘think inbound’ in their marketing strategies, they’ll attract customers who are appropriate for and receptive to the company message,” said LaDuque. “This competitive advantage will not only save franchises money, but will also help them build lasting and loyal relationships with clients.”

                   

    LaDuque Leads Internet Power Training

    Recession proof your business at the first Marketing Bootcamp. The Marketing Bootcamp brings together several top nationally known marketing experts and companies to help you stay the course while the economy gets back on its feet as well as stimulate business growth.

    Learn how to use the power of the Internet and your website for more than just information exchange with Jeremy LaDuque, CEO of ELEMENTS, Inc. LaDuque will teach you to leverage your website to set and attain your marketing goals, analyze your statistics and tailor key performance indicators (KPIs) to fit your business and objectives.

    INTERNET POWER TRAINING 1:50 – 3 PM

    MARKETING BOOTCAMP- Learn Everything You Need to Know to Grow Your Business and Brand!
    Saturday, May 16, 2009
    8:00 am-4:30 pm
    The Embassy Suites in San Luis Obispo

    THIS EVENT IS SPONSORED BY: Central Coast Magazine, Mission Community Services Corporation, Central Coast Women’s Network, Pacific Coast Business Times, New World of Media, Elements, Inc. and Whizbang Ideas!

    Eenie, Meenie, Miney…Moe!

    Choosing a name for anything is daunting. Your kid, your business or website domain, you want to make a good choice. Your domain name is your internet identity and should be a vital component in your overall business and marketing strategy. How do you figure out what your ultimate domain name is?

    I Am What I Am

    Ideally, the planets will align so that your website name and business name will come together at the same time. The name that you’ve been using in your marketing and branding efforts is the name you want for your website and domain. It’s the first thing users will try to enter into a browser.

    If you already have a well-known name or brand, you should obviously get the domain that matches that name. You put a lot of effort into getting that name and branding established in your community. But what if that name is taken? Don’t change your company name because you couldn’t get the domain name.

    Look up the current owner on www.whois.net and contact them to see if they are willing to sell it to you. If they are agreeable to selling the name, they will probably up the fee so you could be paying a higher rate than when you buy a new domain.

    If your website and/or company is new, you might want to check out domain names first and find one that suits the name of your business. So, let’s say you find that bitsandbobs.com is available and buy it, it could be a perfect name for your Bits and Bobs business with your website being bitsandbobs.com.

    Remember, the internet is an extremely fast-paced world and your customers want ease of use, so don’t make them work. A domain name that reflects your business and website is one less piece of information for users to remember. When visitors think of your business and website they’ll know it by name and where to go or what to enter into the browser.

    The Long and Short of It

    It’s true. Shorter domain names are easier to remember (but it’s harder and harder to get meaningful short names that make sense). Short names are also less apt to give users problems with typos. Todayisyourluckyday.com (sort of an average length) is much easier to remember and use than goandconquetheworldtodayisyourluckyday.com.

    On the other hand, if a short name seems confusing or random unless the user is very familiar with you, then stick with something longer. So, tiyld.com is short and sweet, but it’s an odd assortment of letters that aren’t even pronounceable as an acronym. Spelling this out is probably easier to remember and use: TodayIsYourLuckyDay.com. Additionally, search engines will probably not pick up on your randomly-lettered domain name.

    Word! What’s the Key Here?

    Another point to consider is using site keywords in your domain name. Using keywords are likely to boost your site ranking with search engines. It’s not your business name, but the plus side is that search engines gravitate toward keywords that are also found in domain names. However, in order to make keywords in your domain work for you, you’ll need to know what words people are searching for. There are quite a few tools that will can help you figure out the best keywords to use. See Good Things and Do Your Leg Work below for a more detailed discussion.

    So being that you can use up to 63 or 67 characters in a domain name, you could use several keywords…go crazy! But, and try to remember that run-on name and type it into a browser! It’s probably a good idea to avoid a horrendously long name…no one will remember it, much less want to type in out. The key to your domain name, long or short, is that it makes sense and doesn’t cause a lot of confusion for your customers or other potential users.

    Spell It Like It Is

    A correctly-spelled domain name will help your users find your website easily. It might be cool and fun to use z’s for s’s or even add a few zzzz’s to your name, but opt for simple and easy… kewlgurrrlsurferz.com …huh?

    To Hyphen or Not to Hyphen

    Some things to think about with a hyphenated name:

    Not So Good Things:

    • ~ You’ll have a hurdle making people aware of the hyphens in your domain and people don’t usually remember to type them in. Most people would type in todayisyourluckyday.com, not today-is-your-lucky-day.com
    • ~ Adding hyphens in your name makes for a potential mouthful when users say your name…verbal marketing will sound clumsy. It would be almost more logical to buy clumsyhyphenandhyphenawkward.com because you’ll be saying “clumsy hyphen and hyphen awkward dot com.” If you aren’t clear about the hyphens, when people recommend your fabulous product or service and site, other users will type in clumsyandhyphen.com, not clumsy-and-awkward.com. Take a cue from most corporations and try not to use them.
    • ~ Generally, they are a pain to type, especially several of them within one domain.

    Good Things:

    • ~ Hyphens help search engines identify keywords more easily. Because they distinguish your keywords better, your site will be better ranked in search results for those specific keywords.
    • ~ It’s an alternative when the un-hyphenated domain name is already registered to someone else. If you can limit them, you may still be able to get a not-too-awkwardly-hyphenated domain you want.

    Happy Medium Thing:

    • ~ Buy both your natural and hyphenated domain names…since typing the name is easier without hyphens, this is the one you use for marketing and everywhere else. Since search engines usually like and rank domains with hyphenated names better and better ranking drives more users to your site, you’ll get the benefits of the hyphen.

    What’s the Point?

    Registering multiple domain names and pointing each one to a specific page or a few to your general website can help generate higher sales and traffic to your site. When you do this, you give users multiple avenues to your site. So, both customers who know the business name will be able to find you and customers who know your product or service will be able to find you.

    Consider purchasing domains that are similar to your domain, contain hyphens or are even misspelled: coolcoffeeshop.com, coolcoffeeshoppe.com, koolcoffeeshop.com, cool-coffee-shop.com, coolcofeeshop.com, kewlcafeshop.com…you get the picture. Registering several domains will cast a wider net when users search for you. A word of caution: don’t point too many multiple domains to the same page because most search engines will dump your site.

    Dot Wat?

    .com is the most common and widely known extension. Like a good short name, finding your .com domain can be challenging. Most people now recognize .biz, .edu, .org, .net…but these also have certain implications. Be aware that .biz is generally recognized for businesses; .edu is intended for educational institutions; .org is widely used by non-profit and similar organizations; .net was originally for network providers, but it has a general use like .com now. However, there is nothing wrong with buying your domain name with several of these extensions.

    iCUGOT12?

    Numbers can present a similar problem as hyphens, especially with vocal marketing: is shineything4you.com – 4you or foryou or fouryou or 4u…..?

    Shock Value

    Using profanity in your domain name is unprofessional and gives you a negative image. Done.

    Do Your Leg Work

    Getting back to using a keyword or words in your domain name…this will help optimize search engine results, but to make your choices meaningful, you have to know what people are searching for.

    • ~ Word Search – www.wordtracker.com is one of the many tools that can help you find good keywords. Enter the words or phrase/phrases you think people would use to search and the program shows you which words are most popular. You can use this information to optimize our website content, generate more keywords and improve your organic or pay-per-click searches. This site gives you a free 7-day tour, beyond that it’s a paid membership. If you search for “keyword tool,” you’ll find other tools to use as cross-reference.
    • ~ Trademarks – If you have any question about your domain name being trademarked, do some research to verify you aren’t violating the law. However, if you register domain name and then a company trademarks it, you’re probably safe.
    • ~ www.whois.net – You can do various searches on this site, obviously finding out if the domain you want already has a current owner. You can search by domain name, keyword and owner. Using the domain search will help you with trademark research. You can find deleted domains as well.
    • ~ www.deleteddomains.com – The name says it all! Do a primary search for deleted and on-hold domains here. The site has a great feature that allows you to choose search parameters like character length or domains that contain specific words. You’ll need to register to get the full benefits of their services.
    • ~ www.nameboy.com – This is a playful generator site. You search for words and let the program know if you want your domain to use hyphens or rhyming words. It also has a “who is” search. A cool feature is that you can submit your domain name and they will appraise the words for things like search frequency, terms and keyword advertising values, popularity. Using this tool will help you evaluate your domain relative to keywords.

    Because your domain name is part of your image and branding, use all the resources available to make a good choice. Sometimes domains come easy and are a logical fit AND are available—the planets aligned for you! It gets tricky when your first choice isn’t available or you can’t find a good combination of words. Your domain should represent your company and product or service in order to better integrate your website into your marketing strategy.

    The ultimate domain name does not make an ultimate site…you still need to put some work and effort into great content and design. Go the extra mile with keywords and some SEO work. Otherwise, your website will be all dressed up with nowhere to go.