Picking a great Domain Name

Picking a great domain name might be more important then you realize.

Consider the following; only one company can have toys.com, that one company then OWNS the category ‘toys’ as far as the internet is concerned. Not only would you get a lot of traffic from people typing in the word, the reputational effect that owning the category brings with it will do that company much good.

Consider on the other hand the domain Google.com. It doesn’t say anything about what the company does (its a mathematical term, but incorrectly spelled) but it’s pronoucable and short. The difference for Google is that another small broker in Austria cannot be called gnosher or frumbl (just made those up) without spending considerable amounts on marketing it. People just wouldn’t remember it, recommend it to their friends or come back to it by typing in the name. You have to burn it in people’s mind.

So, depending on the purpose of your website and your budget, you need to make a choice:

  1. Branded: are domains that are named according to your business.
  2. Keyword rich: are domains that describe the kind of service or product people are looking for.

If your main goal is online acquisition thru online marketing and search engine optimization then it makes sense to pick a keyword rich URL. Search engines love them (MSN/Bing puts lots of weight on keywords in the domain, Google puts some) and when people are searching for a solution in your area the chance is big they will just type in the main keyword in their browser bar. They also signal some brand value, if you are a plumber and have the domain plumber.com your company will be viewed as a high value company.

However, those domains are hard to come by for the main industry keywords and as such are now the privilege of cash rich companies (sedo offers some for sale) and the super niche (think green-foot-fungus-for-hikers-in-southern-america.com). For ideas on your main industry keywords you can look at google’s keyword tool.

Brainstorming on those keywords and combinations thereof can be fruitful, imagine your main keyword is ‘widgets’, then a domain like coolwidgets.com will definitely work. Especially in emerging markets (in terms of your industry) a lot of good country specific domains are still available.

Another way of getting a keyword rich domain at low cost is by coining a new industry specific phrase describing what you do, and PR’ing the hell out of it.

In the case of branded domains all the rules of a good (company) name still apply, your name needs to be memorable, short, descriptive and targeted to your main audience. This kind of domain is mostly fitted for companies that conduct business outside the web, but a considerable marketing spend and/or a purple cow will take care of that problem also (think Google, Yahoo, del.icio.us).

In almost all cases should your domain name be the name of your website/business.

Secondly, you need to pick an extension. For businesses .com and .net are most common but if you’re a local operator and do business solely in your country it makes sense to get the country specific domain. I don’t have any stats on it but in a lot of countries a kind of internationalization has been going on. Dutch TV ads, URL’s and thus also top level domains will often be completely in English and so you might want to consider using the ‘halo effect’ that a .com offers. If your doubting about a .net; take under consideration that globally .net traffic is disappearing and a good .com is definitely better in terms of type in, ppc and natural search traffic.

Tracking Systems for Display Advertising

The gift of online marketing is that everything is measurable. It’s a gift because for the first time in history we know exactly what marketing works and what doesn’t. We know what message in what medium brings us results and we can optimize them in ‘real-time’.

To get this information we need to get an understanding of the systems involved in measurement. Most commonly there are three to four systems that data flows thru; from banner impression to becoming a client:

Online Marketing Lifecycle

1. The media show your banner to their visitors thru an adserver which loads the banner from your own adserver (if you have one).

2. The visitors go to your site by clicking on the banner; this is recorded in both adservers.

3. The visitors land on your site and whatever they do after is recorded by a web analytics package.

4. The visitor signs up for a free trial or requests more information and becomes a lead, this is recorded in the web analytics package, your adserver (thru a code on the confirmation page* ) and your CRM system.

5. The lead becomes a client; this is recorded in your CRM system.

*the confirmation page is typically the page that comes after a visitor takes a desirable action. An example is the ‘thank you for downloading’ page that comes after signing up for a free trial. As you are sure the visitor has completed the sign up you can now ‘tell’ the ad server and your web analytics package that a conversion has happened by executing a conversion code.

If you don’t have someone responsible and accountable for turning all of the online dials and clearly setting the direction for your online strategy as well as making sure your strategy lines up with all of the other marketing programs that are being executed, your online strategy will fail.

Rob Crigler – Director of Interactive Marketing for Orkin

Banner Advertising Payment Models

Different sites have different payment models. The most widely used ones are:

CPA: Cost-per-Action, also called CPL or Cost-Per-Lead. You usually pay for each sign up the banner generated.

CPM: Cost-per-Mille (thousand). You pay a set fee for every thousand impressions.

CPC: Cost-per-Click. You pay for every click on the banner.

Fixed Price: pay once and get your banner on the site for a set amount of time regardless of results.

Of these the CPM model is most common. Keeping a close eye on CVR (Conversion Rate) is needed to keep the cost under control. When doing a branding campaign this is less important as your main performance indicator is awareness in which case impressions and clicks are more important (but only on quality sites).

Considering the certainty that you only pay for results the CPA model is most favorable for direct selling campaigns. This model is most common among networks that have large inventory of mostly lower quality sites. An important consideration when researching these networks is to make sure your banners don’t end up on any inappropriate sites which might do harm to your reputation. Always ask for a site list and do a rough selection (don’t be too strict because you’re paying per lead anyway).

The CPC model is the least common of all and mostly known for its use in search advertising. This is kind of a synthesis of the CPA and CPM model in that you pay for interest and not so much awareness or acquisition. Due to click-fraud, irrelevant sites in networks and the fact that the other two models are more appropriate for the different campaign objectives we would recommend to generally not use this payment model (except for search marketing of course).

Fixed Price placements are most common for small buttons and/or small sites. While this has its obvious caveats you can often work out the economics of the deal by looking at the site’s statistics (or thru Alexa, Compete, Quantcast etc.) and figuring out what kind of results you need to get to break even.

Branded keywords for PPC

People that search for keywords that have your brand in it were already exposed to your marketing (how else would they know your brand), and as a rule the more marketing you do, the more branded searches you’ll see. For PPC in one company we see that on average globally, branded conversions make up 32% (!) of the total. Besides the branded searches we see in PPC there are also people that directly navigate or (even more so) go thru the natural search results (so this effect is even bigger).

The effect of any marketing effort can usually be measure by branded searches, we call it a ‘branding effect’. As you can in your Google Adwords data there is a close correlation between branded and non branded clicks. From this we can clearly see that PPC does have a ‘branding effect’ although it is smaller and less pertaining over time.

Display advertising is a little different since the branded conversions won’t be attributed (yet); while I personally don’t have this kind of data on a lot of Display Advertising I am joined by a host of online marketers that have noticed the synergies between Search and Display. It is estimated that the direct response (clicks) from display advertising is only 30% of the true response, 70% will respond thru other channels (30% go thru search, 20% type in the domain direct and 10% look at social media for advice). Therefore the CPL’s can sometimes seem too expensive as compared to PPC. We will be able to unpick most of this thru an integrated analytics system like the one from Omniture (although the process is still very lengthy and full of pitfalls).

Print is another medium that causes people to search for your brand. While it is a difficult thing to unpick there are two ways to look at the performance (probably you should do both):

1.    Look at the increase in leads/clients for this period as compared to normal (econometric analysis will do the trick), or easier; looking at branded searches and direct to site navigation will tell you more about the immediate effect.

2.    Use campaign URL’s in the copy that state a clear advantage for people to visit (as opposed to just typing in Domain.com – people are LAZY). An example would be ‘visit Domain.com/ebookFT for a free ebook. Only for readers of FT’, or even better, use a separate URL that redirects automatically (ie. DomainEbook.com).

But I digress. The reason we should pay close attention to the brand effect (in both PPC and natural searches) is that they are usually and mostly caused by other marketing, but often attributed to the PPC effort. Lies, damned lies & statistics.

Free PPC Tracking

Free PPC tracking with http://prosper202.com/apps/? Ill check it out. (from Dr_Ngo)

About Me

Thoughts on Direct and Online Marketing in the Financial Industry. By Bart Burggraaf. Bart is MD/Partner at MGL, a London based Financial Services Marketing Agency. The posts on this blog are the personal opinions of Bart Burggraaf and not the official view point of MGL or any of it's clients.