After speaking to Chet Woodside at Small Business BC and discovering that a lot of small business people like the DIY tone of the SBBC seminars, I decided to start a new series of blogs called DIY SEO that is intended to teach small business people, in bite sized chunks, ways that they can improve their website’s ranking on various search engines. If you’re looking for instant gratification or sneaky tricks to “fool” search engines (which is called “blackhat” seo), then you’ve come to the wrong place. And quite frankly, with the semantic web fast approaching, there’s no point investing in disingenuous seo techniques that are just going to get you put in search engine jail in the near future. So here’s the first installment where we will talk about the power of keyword rich domains.

Web designers should always ask you if you have bought your domain already. The reason being is all domains are not created equal. Obviously, big branded companies want their company name to be in the domain but as a small business owner, you need to critically ask yourself whether you company name in your domain is worth loosing out on potentially thousands of opportunities each month. Yes, thousands. But how do you know what domain you should buy. We’ll fortunately, there are some rules and tools that you can use to make this decision:

  1. Geography. Start by writing down all of the cities, districts, municipalities that you serve. A lot of people search for products like windows by typing “Burnaby Vinyl Windows” instead of just “Vinyl Windows”.
  2. Products and Services. Now write down all of your products or services. If you see where this is going, then you’ll probably want to use MS Excel and have a column for your geographic regions and a column for your products.
  3. Rank them. Then you want to rank all of your geographies and products/services by profitability, cashflow, or whatever makes sense for your business.
  4. Create combinations. Now start with your top ranked geography and product and start coming up with creative combinations then and add a .com, .net or .ca to the end (.org if you’re a non-profit). You can use www.bustaname.com to quickly search for .com URL’s.
  5. Research number of searches. Now is the hard part which might trip a few people up. You need to sign-up for a Google adwords account because inside of there is a keyword tool that tells you exactly how many people are searching for a given phrase each month. Using the Adowrds keywords tool, you can punch in the search phrases that match your domains and see how many people are typing that phrase into Google each month. These are highly aggregated average numbers but they are excellent indicators for making a domain purchase. I think you’ll be surprised to see how much variation there is in your domain options. Punch the results into your excel spreadsheet.
  6. Research competitor’s sites. Now you need to install the seo toolbar in Firefox from SEO book that tells you how well optimized a site/page is. Type in “Vancouver project manager” into Google and look at the SEO bar stats for the top site. The number of Yahoo links and link-domains tells you how many people are linking to that site. Lots of links means it will be hard for your new site to rank high. Few links means you’ve got a chance even though your site is brand new with no links and little seo. The links measurement is just an indicator but it’s a good place to start. Drop those numbers into excel as well.
  7. Resort your domains. Now that you know how many people are searching for various available domains and how entrenched the competitor’s sites are, you can decide which domains are best to purchase.
  8. Purchase more than one domain. It’s possible that as you learn various SEO techniques you will make some mistakes. Big mistakes can get your website de-ranked or worse, blacklisted. In such cases, it’s faster to just figure out what you did wrong and move the site over to an alternate domain such as projectmanagervancouver.com…which I also bought…just in case ;-). And if you purchase domains for longer than a one year period, Google will recognize that investment and give you a little bump on the SEO meter.

So, I hope that empowers a few people out with their next domain purchase and has opened up a world of opportunity that they never knew existed. As usual, ask questions or write comments and I’ll get back to you.