Dynamic Business
Thinking About a Web Site?
Here are some tips to get started
Everywhere you go you see advertisements for web sites containing domain names. As many as 70% of ads placed in major publications now include a URL. It can be a wonderful way to increase the effectiveness of advertising dollars, if people remember how to visit your site. The right domain name will immediately bring a business to mind. It's an example of branding, associating a particular business with a specific name. A great domain name stays in people's minds, and makes them think of that particular business whenever they see it.

Branding begins with choosing a domain name that relates to a business. This is extremely important. Getty paid millions to acquire Art.com. Everybody remembers those cute TV commercials with the puppet from Pets.com. Those two companies spent a small fortune, either in purchasing a name or running commercials to get their target audience to associate their names with the products they offer. That's powerful branding.

Obviously, the first choice of domain names is the business name. The problem is domain names are being registered at the rate of approximately 25,000 a day, and every common word in the English language is already taken. Most common business names are already taken. However, one can still come up with a great name -- just be creative.

Keep the choices as simple and short as possible, avoiding hyphens and underscores. If a number is to be included in the name, register the same name with that number spelled out as well. If the name is commonly misspelled, register the misspelling as well as the correct spelling. One can have as many domain names resolve to the same web site as one wants, and it will minimize the chances of someone not being able to find your web site when they type in the incorrect name. Names that begin with letters at the beginning of the alphabet will have an advantage in some search directories, like Yahoo, but not in others.

Another part of the branding process is the experience people have while browsing a web site. There should have a consistent look to the site, with contact information no more than a single click away. The site should be easy to navigate, with quick loading pages and easy to find content. Otherwise, viewers won't stay around long, let alone buy. 

Building a great site is only the beginning. To be successful, one must constantly promote a web site. The site name should appear prominently within all advertisements. It can be displayed on a sign that sits over the cash register or on the wall in a business. It can be part of the return address on a business envelope. The object is to train customers to think of your business as a web site name besides a storefront. This is branding.

Put content on the web site that will bring frequent and repeat traffic. Try to make the web site a resource for people who are interested in your products. If you sell old books, you might create a tips page about the care and storage of books. You might also start a forum about a subject related to your business.

Here's a good example: I currently have a web site to sell a line of my Teddy Bear photographs,  www.BermanBears.com. As a way to channel traffic to my web site, I've created a links page as a resource for the Teddy Bear community. This links page contains links and descriptions to 700 other Teddy Bear sites.

Another way to promote the web site might be to create online coupons, available as pages customers can print out and present upon purchasing. Be sure to have a form for people to submit names and e-mail addresses, so they can be quickly and inexpensively contacted about sales and special promotions.

The online world is growing at an incredible pace. There are constantly new business opportunities on the web. New businesses are factoring the cost of a web site into their start-up capital, knowing the return for a web site will outlast the return on any other form of advertising. Do not be afraid to jump in.

Larry Berman has been a Fine Art Photographer for 25 years. He's now working as an online consultant and web designer. His web site, www.BermanGraphics.com, is filled with tips and examples of how small businesses can use a web site to increase sales. You can reach him by e-mail at larry@bermanart.com, or by telephone at 412-767-8644 or 800-350-9289.

This article is available for reprint by permission only
Larry Berman

This article was created May 29, 2000 for Dynamic Business, a magazine published by SMC, The Small Business Council of Western Pennsylvania

It is also running in the Internet magazine @ Your Fingers

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