The Domain Name Game


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Posted by Brenda Timm, Vice President – Strategic Communication & Online Services

Think back to when you registered the domain for your website. Was it a fee of somewhere between $10-$40 or closer to $300,000?

Yep, you read that right. In a public auction being held this week, the going rate for “SEM.com” – short for “search engine marketing.com” – is at $290,000. That’s quite a contrast to “discountvinyl.com,” another domain currently listed, with a minimum asking price of just $2.
But this is precisely how the game of domain names goes.

How does the pricing process work? When a domain name expires and its registrant doesn’t choose to renew, the domain often goes to auction through sites like GoDaddy or Sedo. In the case of “SEM.com” listed on Heritage Auctions, the name was expected to be so sought after that an email campaign was even sent to announce that it was up for grabs. Depending on demand or the lack thereof, domain costs can vary significantly.

So how do you avoid paying the big bucks when choosing a domain while still securing one that is a good, logical fit for your website?

  • Do your homework – As one of the first steps in website development, research the main domains you’re interested in to see if they’re available and what they will cost to register. But be careful – rather than using domain search services, we often recommend simply typing the desired domain name into your browser URL bar as if it is an actual address and see if anything comes up. There are instances of ‘squatters’ monitoring domain searches and purchasing them before YOU get a chance to. If certain names are already spoken for, find who owns them through Whois and see if a purchase is negotiable and affordable.
  • Choose accordingly – Your domain should tie to your organization name and align with your branding efforts. If the two are totally unrelated, think of how much this could confuse visitors.
    Consider the extensions – Out of all the extensions available today, .com is still the most popular and universally recognized, beating out .net, .org, .co, .biz and others. It is typically a good idea to purchase both the .com and the .org (or other preferred extension(s)) all at the same time. There are several reasons to do this; one is to help keep competitors from snapping them up and directing your traffic to their websites.
  • Keep it short – An important rule of thumb is to keep your domain short so it’s fast and easy to type. Avoid a long string of words pieced together and terms with multiple spellings. That being said, sometimes a slightly longer domain with recognizable words can be more intuitive and easier to remember than a very short acronym from those words.
  • Keep it simple – The simpler your domain is, the more memorable. Extra characters like hyphens, numerals and underscores can be difficult to remember.

There are a lot of things to consider when selecting the right domains for your website. Here’s one more tip: it’s easier – and much more cost-effective – to secure the best names up front than to try and alter all of your marketing materials later.

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Search Engine Traffic: Quantity vs. Quality?


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Posted by Erin Schroeder, Copywriter & Online Specialist

A leading site for estimating web traffic, Alexa reports that Google still commands the #1 position for “Top 500 Sites on the Web” globally and also remains the most popular in the search engine (SE) category.

Not a big surprise, is it? Here’s something you might not know, though: other SEs may be bringing in more engaged visitors.

A recent article MarketingProfs published on a study by Shareaholic showed that Google is driving a lot more traffic numbers-wise, but the visitors who come from some of the less popular SEs are often more connected.

How so? When looking at several SEs, organic search data from more than 300,000 sites and 400 million unique visitors was analyzed for a six-month period. It showed that searchers who land on sites through Ask.com, Bing and Yahoo! average longer visit times, navigate to more pages and have a lower bounce rate (leaving a site after viewing just one page) than Google.

The report showed that visitors arriving via Google average just over two pages per visit. Plus, these visitors have a 61.26% bounce rate once they reach a site, meaning they are very likely to make a quick exit if they don’t find the information or answers needed right away.

While AOL comes in as the search engine with the least engaged audience post-click according to average time spent on site, total pages reviewed and bounce rate, Google has the second lowest overall percentage in the study.

So why are these findings so significant to us marketers?

As the clear leader in search engine usage for so long, Google has become the engine many tend to cater their online efforts to since it sends 17 times more traffic to sites than the other SEs mentioned – AOL, Ask.com, Bing and Yahoo! – combined.

However, this research shows that it’s not just the quantity of visits we should be paying attention to as other SEs may be worth consideration when it comes to the quality.

In any case, this data certainly raises some thought-provoking questions when evaluating search engine strategy and tactics, such as why engagement levels seem to differ between search engines, and the like. It’s a topic that’s worthy of a deeper level of analysis than this single study provides.

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Using Social Channels: Facebook vs. Twitter


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Posted by Jennifer Heckner, Project Coordinator

While they are often lumped together when talking social media or sometimes mentioned interchangeably, Facebook and Twitter are really quite different.

And if we want to make the most out of using both platforms for business, it’s important to understand how consumers approach each one.

The Connection
First off, consider the type of connection each offers – one referred to as friend, the other called a follower. Facebook has long been viewed as a tool to make more personal connections with family, friends and other acquaintances … a way to share photo albums, initiate conversations and, ultimately, keep in touch. Twitter, on the other hand, is typically used for more impersonal matters. It’s not so much about cultivating friendships as it is about people who have similar interests and affiliations connecting or simply keeping up with the latest news.

The Content
Speaking of the news, people expect to find breaking stories or trending topics on Twitter. The 140-character limit per post makes it the perfect format for quick updates (with the option to add links to more complete coverage). Facebook is used to communicate news to some degree, but logging in to scroll through your newsfeed doesn’t seem to carry that same sense of urgency.

The Critique
How does customer feedback play into Facebook and Twitter scenarios? With Facebook, unhappy patrons are able to share a lengthy post on their own timeline or on a company page that spells out all the details of a bad experience. Twitter users can broadcast an abbreviated version of their public rants for all followers to see and have additional reach when adding hashtags. The same process goes for positive reviews.

The Carryover
One more difference to note is the life-cycle of posts. Twitter is more in-the-moment as most audience activity tends to occur within the first hour or so after a Tweet goes live. When pushing out an update on Facebook, that content can garner new likes and comments for days to come.

Facebook and Twitter do have similarities, but they are two totally different social tools.

Whether you implement one or both for business, understanding how the consumer uses each channel is sure to help you develop a more effective strategy.

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Giving Customers the Star Treatment


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Posted by Erin Schroeder, Copywriter & Online Specialist

“It’s all about the customer” is a pretty common strategy among businesses, but recent trends point toward taking this mission even further with a more personalized approach.

We’re seeing it more and more often these days as companies tailor their sales efforts by target audience and work really hard to win over new and existing customers.

A great example is an e-mail offer I received from Old Navy last week.

I’m a bit old-fashioned in that I still do a lot of my shopping in-store even though I absolutely love the convenience of online ordering. The things that discourage me from filling up my cart at home: wondering if I’m getting the best price available, paying those extra shipping and handling fees and dealing with the hassle of returns.

So how perceptive would it be if a retailer addressed all of these things in a single email offer?

For starters, I had my choice among three sales (labeled a “DIY Deal” in the header – pretty clever, huh?). And instead of including only the standard sliding scale variety where savings are based on spending, Old Navy threw in an option of 30 percent off all regular-priced merchandise, too. (This was especially nice as I seem to be that person who ALWAYS gravitates to the one thing on the rack that’s not marked down.)

Plus, in addition to the DIY deals and good prices, I was greeted by messages about free shipping with a minimum order and free returns on all orders.

Bingo! As I scanned this glorious email and itched to start browsing the online catalog a.s.a.p., I realized that Old Navy hit everything on my checklist, and I felt as though the email was written just for me.

This is the exact effect retailers and other businesses are shooting for today in their quest to cater to the individual instead of the masses.

The bottom line?

The more we pay attention to our customers’ wants and needs and do our best to deliver on them, the better chance we’ll have in making the sale.

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A Consistent Call to Action


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Posted by Brenda Timm, Vice President – Strategic Communication & Online Services

Consider your website for a moment. Are there calls to action throughout or are they limited to the links within navigation that direct right to the contact page?

Here’s the thing: every page of your site should be seen as an opportunity for visitors to connect.

By opportunity to connect, that doesn’t necessarily mean putting a giant blinking “CONTACT US” button on every page with the sole objective of acquiring immediate new sales.

Sure, some on-the-spot orders would be great, but that’s not always the reality. Our websites are often the first tool people use to kick off the information gathering process or learn more about a specific product or service. Visitors regularly land on our sites in investigation mode and aren’t quite ready to open up their wallets.

To build in more calls to action and encourage users to engage, the consistent placement of your main contact number is a great staring point. This allows people a way to interact from any page and also provides an alternative to abandoning your site should they hit a snag.

Here are a few more subtle ways to work in additional calls to action:

  • Include links to helpful content and related resources within your own site
  • Add supplemental materials that can be easily accessed like case studies and work samples
  • Incorporate quick forms requiring minimal info and encourage visitors to ask questions
  • Set up email links to key staff on team or bio pages
  • Offer useful content by download

A good call to action doesn’t always translate to an instant sale … oftentimes it’s simply meant to encourage your visitors to dig deeper into your site and facilitate that initial connection.

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Content that Breaks Through the Clutter


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Posted by Dave Willems, CEO & Principal

Think about the way we communicate today. A lot of our messages have moved to the short-and-sweet variety (think texts and tweets with limited characters), but the number of them just keeps multiplying.

We’re exposed to so much content coming through so many channels and sometimes the only way to keep up seems to jump from one piece to the next at breakneck speed.

Here’s the challenge this content overload presents for us marketers: Grabbing someone’s attention is only the first step. It’s what happens next that really matters.

Yes, getting people to take notice through a colorful graphic or big, bold message is a great start, but a successful interaction is having them see past all the other competing clutter and take the time to actually process our content. That’s a tricky thing to do nowadays with all the extra noise swirling around out there.

In fact, a study by Statistic Brain shows that the average human attention span is just eight seconds. That’s down from 12 whole seconds in 2002!

So with all those apps and feeds and alerts constantly updating on a multitude of devices, how can you spark some interest for your brand and capitalize on those fleeting seconds?

It takes the right message through the right medium at the right moment.

We’re learning how truly important it is to segment our target audience, understand customer behaviors and deliver the information each group is looking for based on the various stages of the buying cycle.

We’re also learning that a customer-controlled approach is often the most effective. That means making the initial connection and then organizing the most helpful information in a “whatever, whenever” format for customers to access however they choose to explore– from product reviews and testimonials to articles, whitepapers and infographics.

With the thousands of messages that bombard us each day, it’s easy to see how the majority get lost in the mix. Consider what speaks best to your target and you may just win those coveted eight seconds.

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Making Pictures Part of the Social Story


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Posted by Jennifer Heckner, Project Coordinator

Do you remember those very first trips to the library as a kid and how the selection process usually came down to finding the books with the best (and most colorful) pictures?

It makes perfect sense since we tend to process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.

And while the words and chapters and plotlines and characters become increasingly important to us over time, there is always a place for the pictures.

This is especially true in marketing today as we shift toward digital communications and embrace content marketing and company storytelling. It’s also becoming very clear in the social media realm as we see visual-based sites like Pinterest and Instagram moving to the forefront.

But many businesses wonder how to incorporate visuals as part of the social sharing process.

With a strategy, most any company can do it. The biggest tip: be resourceful. Start with the social channels you already use and re-assess your standard visuals. Are your profile and cover images a good representation of your business or could you replace them with better, more expressive images?

From there, think of how you can work some visuals into your everyday posting strategy. Consider these ideas as a starting point:

  • Behind the scenes – What is an ordinary day like at the office or on the floor? Give followers a look at the happenings they might not otherwise see or experience.
  • Creative uses of product – Are your products multi-purpose? Show them in action! Find creative ways they’ve been used or applied and capture them.
  • Customer successes – People love to see how products and services have addressed a specific challenge. Happy customers are one way to illustrate this.
  • Before and after – Do your business solutions result in a significant change from before to after? Let readers see the difference.
  • Team shots – A great way to showcase your team, post photos that include staff interactions. People always like to put a name with a face.
  • Fun moments – Host a fun event or activity that was filled with smiles and laughter? Share the positive energy.

Need some more inspiration? Check out the social sites you’re connected to and see what kind of visuals other businesses are putting out there. Take some notes and develop your own plan.

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