Location, location, location. That’s the key to any successful real world business. Did you know that the internet is the same way? The internet also has good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods. It’s all in the address. The domain that you choose will determine whether your website is just another run down store in a commercial center strip mall or whether it’s the cute little boutique shop in the glamorous part of town.
Most people don’t think about it, but the internet has a geography of its own. It’s all determined by the web address that you choose. Last week, I talked about choosing a good host for your blog. Hand in hand with choosing the right host is picking a domain name and registering your domain.
If you’ve ever registered a domain name, you’ll see that you have a lot of choices in the name. You can also choose your top level domain from .com to .net, .org, and a variety of other choices. In many cases, the less common top level domains are cheaper than a .com.
Think on that. The real world has high rent and low rent districts as well. This is the same thing. What image do you want your website or blog to convey?
Big Metropolitan Image
A .com domain is one of the most popular domains in the world. When someone is thinking of a website, in their head they are thinking of such-and-such-website.com. It’s the popular neighborhood.
While it generally costs a bit more to rent in the big metropolitan area, in internet dollars it’s worth the extra cost. You’re probably talking about $10 a year for a .com domain. Why not spend the little bit extra?
Just Another Store in the Big Metropolitan
You may get a lot of advice about naming your website based on your keywords. However, you’ll notice when you do this that many times the .com domain is already taken. Many registrars will then offer you alternatives of the same name at a .net or .nfo or other less popular choices. Don’t fall for it!
Personally, I don’t advocate going out of your way to keyword stuff your domain. I think you lose branding power that way and turn into just another store in the big metropolitan.
You know what I mean. With a generic name, you’re just one of those non-descript concrete boxes next to all the other concrete boxes in the downtown part of the city. People pass by you all the time and they come in and buy stuff from you, but they can’t remember the name of your store. You’re just that one store over on the corner of Main and Broadway…
On the other hand, if you are looking to buy stuff online, do you go to buy-stuff-online.com or do you head over to amazon.com? The name Amazon has nothing to doing with buying stuff online, but people remember the name.
Off the Beaten Path
These aren’t the most popular domains, but they are serviceable. In fact there are many successful .net websites. However, you need to make a name for yourself because the .net domain is just a little off the beaten path.
People don’t drive up your street unless they are looking for you. This can have its own advantages if you build a good brand. People come to your site with a purpose.
The Middle of the Swapmeet
This is how I think of the free domains. You know the ones that come with the free hosting: blogspot, typepad, wordpress, etc…
You are caught in the sprawl of all the other shops. You may have a name, but it’s not memorable. You’re just another tent in the swapmeet. People may remember the name of the swapmeet, but the individual shops within are a bit harder.
This is why we don’t recommend these domains. You are caught in the sprawl with a difficult to remember location. Sure people may remember that you have a tent in the corner somewhere. They’ll remember that you have a huge selection of CD’s, but what was the name of that shop again?
The Bad Neighborhoods
Nobody remembers these domains. If hard pressed to remember the name of your website, they may just resort to a google search instead.
Now here is the danger of having a generic keyword name for your website combined with these bad neighborhood domains: nobody will find your website.
Imagine if you wanted to start a pet training website. It’s high competition, but you want the keywords train your pet. So you are hoping to get trainyourpet.com, but that’s taken. So is trainyourpet.net. So you settle for trainyourpet.info. Guess where people are most likely to go when those three results come up when they search for “train your pet”?
This is the bad neighborhood. Imagine the part of town with low traffic, closed up shops, litter in the streets. There’s the occasional store with the blinking neon sign, a letter burned out and the rest of the sign flickering as if ready to shut off. That’s not the neighborhood where you want to set up your website.
Remember: Location, Location, Location
We often forget that the internet has locations just as real as any real world city. It’s god good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods. Memorable addresses and forgettable ones.
Your choices in picking your location will determine how hard or easy it will be for you to get traffic to your website. It will affect how quickly people will remember your name. To that extent it will affect how many visitors return to your site.
It is the starting point. The first thing a visitor sees about your site. What impression do you want to convey?