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What's in a URL? Domain Names for Dummies

Everyone in real estate has a website these days. Or at least, they should. In today’s world, they are crucial prospecting and marketing tools for both existing customers and potential new clients. But why waste all your time and/or money in designing a beautiful, content-rich site when no one will remember it? Because our business is done in the real world, it is crucial that we have a memorable URL (domain name, website address) that we can advertise prominently on signs, newspaper ads, maybe even your car. I’ve always been a big believer in short, sweet URLs. Ever since I started in real estate, I’ve tracked the traffic sources of my site with Google Analytics. At least 1/3 of my visitors and usually more enter the URL directly into their browser.So, what’s the difference between good and bad? I came across this blog, written by a fellow geek that, like its title suggests, points out good from bad and explains why. Here is an excerpt of some tips from the site:

Do’s
1. CapitalizeTheFirstLetterOfEachWord.
2.UseDifferentColorsOrBoldToHelpEachWordStandOut.
3. Whenever possible, use YourBrandName.com.
4. If .com is not available, use YourBrandName.net.
5. If .com and .net are taken, find a new brand name. Seriously.
6. Use YourSlogan.com when running an integrated media campaign.
7. Use subdomains when driving people deeper than your homepage – e.g. Product.YourBrandName.com.

Don’ts
1. Don’t include www. We know to go to the World Wide Web to find you.
2. Don’t include http://. If your audience isn’t web savvy enough to know where to type the URL, you shouldn’t have a website.
3. don’tusealllowercase (canyoureallytellwhereonewordendsandthenextbegins?)
4. DITTOFORALLUPPERCASE
5. No-hyphens/or slashes.
6. Don’t use acronyms, abbreviations, or numbers unless your brand is widely known as such.
7. Don’t bury your URL at the bottom of a billboard. I’m the only nerd driving around with a 4x zoom lens to find URLs.

I agree with most of the above, although I should note that if your country (including ours) has a strong and well-recognized top-level domain (for example .ca, .co.uk, or .au) don’t be afraid to use it. You may find your desired brand name under a different TLD. This has the added bonus of distinguishing for search engines like Google where your website/brand/product is located geographically – a pretty good idea for real estate, wouldn’t you agree?

The author is also fond of capitalizing the first letter of multi-word domains. I would tend to agree with this in most cases, and in fact I’ve changed the lettering in my e-mail signatures and will propagate the changes across all my marketing material in the future.

I’d have to say that my personal most-hated URL no-no would have to be excessively long ones. You have 255 characters to work with, but there’s no need to use them all. I even hesitated before purchasing this domain name. Think about it – are you likely to remember VictoriasNumberOneAgentForHousesAndCondosInSookeOrVictoria.com when you drive past the bus bench or see it on a sign?

Also, are you giving up visitors to your site because they’re misspelling it, or getting the wrong top-level domain? Domain names are cheap ($10-20/year) so why not register several, and point them all to the same place? For example, I own TimAyres.ca, TimAyres.com, SellingSooke.com, SellingSooke.ca, and 2 or 3 others that all point to the same place. I’ve even considered TimAyers.ca as an alternative, because it’s a common misspelling of my last name.

Another tip I’d like to add: if you’ve got a great idea for a slick new domain name, run it by a few people first to see if they get it. Ideally somebody not involved in your industry. While agents might get FixturesAndChattels.com, a consumer might not. Worse, your domain name could be unintentionally hilarious, such as a certain online writing utensil retailer, penisland.com – another argument for captializing the first letter of each word in the URL.

So take a moment or two, and examine your domain name. Is it good or bad? And in your printed ads? What can you do to make this extremely important part of your business work better for you?

-Tim