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The Do’s and Don’ts for Picking a URL


Your website address can be just as important as your business name. Choosing the right one means avoiding unusual spellings and unnecessary punctuation and making sure you’ve got your bases covered. BND Contributor Chris Prickett gives his take on the best URL strategy.

I live in a great house in a great neighborhood. The only downside is that the street is named after the girlfriend of the community planner, and let’s just say she’s no Plain Jane.

I’m not kidding. The street name is a three-syllable word that consists of four o’s and a couple other random vowels thrown in for good measure. This is an annoyance, since I need to spell my street name every time I give out my address.  As often as not, it takes two or three attempts. Some mail still never arrives.

While a difficult-to-spell address can be frustrating, the wrong name choice for your website will cost you money, traffic and, quite possibly, your business. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when choosing a web address.

The long and winding web address. Your website name should be descriptive — but not to the point of inducing finger cramping every time someone has to type it. Let’s take business supplies, for example. The name “Staples.com” is short and sweet, makes the buyer think of office supplies, and is a play on words, to boot. Conversely, WeSellOfficeSuppliesAndOtherStuff.com would be a bad choice. When it comes to a new URL, remember KISS ("Keep it simple, stupid!").

Web of confusion. Who am I to argue with the success of Google? They took a name that meant absolutely nothing and turned it into a part of our daily lexicon. You can do that, too, if you have the marketing budget. If you don’t, try to find something that’s a bit more descriptive, and save yourself a few bucks.

Buy the numbers. GoToMeeting.com is a web-based provider of offsite meeting solutions. The first time I typed the site name into my browser bar, I typed “2” instead of “to.” The result was a search website that had multiple links to GoToMeeting.com’s competitors.  Don’t think for a second that’s just a coincidence. While this is, in my opinion, a bit unscrupulous, it’s not illegal, and it’s a common practice.

For an example of how to do it right, take a look at GoToMyPC.com. Whether you type “2”or “to,” you end up where they want you to go. Moral of the story? If you use a word that can be mistaken for a number (or is commonly misspelled, for that matter), spend a couple extra bucks and buy another web address and direct it to your site. It’s a small price to pay for ensuring that your leads go to you.

Dump the dash. Is it a hyphen or an underscore? Once again, you’ve confused your prospective buyer or client. And like the numbers trick previously discussed, you’re opening yourself up to piracy on the high seas of the Internet Ocean.  Adding a dash could lead to sending out an SOS for your e-commerce life.

Beware of the brand. Many site owners are slapped with quick and nasty “cease and desist” orders for using names that are already trademarked. This is a particularly expensive lesson to learn if you’ve built your whole marketing strategy around a URL that violates any trademarks.  This is probably something you want to discuss with an attorney prior to ordering those 5,000 glossy four-color brochures.

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Chris Prickett is a successful entrepreneur who specializes in defying conventional thinking. He’s built and sold two companies and made many mistakes along the way. He started a Phoenix, AZ real estate business in 2007, during the worst market in modern history, and business is booming.

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