Should I purchase domain names proactively?

This past week, The Donald made headlines when it was uncovered that his company owned thousands of domain names that are simply being parked in what it deems as a defensive move.

Says Trump’s son, Eric, “For a company like ours, it’s incredibly important to protect ourselves, and it’s incredibly important to own our intellectual property.”

Here’s why this doesn’t make financial sense, and why it also a futile effort:

Yahoo lists some of the domains owned:

  • DonaldTrumpSucks.com
  • TrumpCorporationSucks.com
  • TrumpOrganizationSucks.com

It typically costs anywhere from a few dollars to about $15 to keep each domain per year. Let’s say it’s $10. And let’s say they have 50,000 domains. That means they are paying $500,000 a year to park these domains. Chump change for a billion-dollar corporation, right? Well, after 20 years, that’s $10 million. Not to mention the lost return on capital the $500,000 would generate on a annualized basis.

The Trump organization is probably also (over)paying an agency to manage these domains on their behalf… perhaps another $50,000 – $100,000 per year.

When asked, I have never recommended purchasing domain names to thwart potential slander. And I’m asked this same question at each company I work. The reason is pretty simple, you just cannot purchase all the combinations of potentially scandalous domain names. In fact, there are 36 to 245th power which is basically a 2 with 381 zeroes following it. That’s a lot more than a google, and a lot of $10 bills each year. For example, here are five domain names I could purchase that they haven’t yet:

  • DonaldTrumpSucks1.com
  • DonaldTrumpSucks123.com
  • DonaldTrumpSucksABC.com
  • DonaldTrumpSucksNYC2016HellYeahEveryone.com
  • DonaldTrumpSucks3000.info

See my point?

Not only is this a waste of money, it’s a waste of time.

Proponents of this futile activity will claim “it’s worth it if we even thwart one attack!” But you won’t. If you know search engine optimization, you don’t even need Trump in the name of your website to talk about the organization. I’m talking about them now, and if I had good content and SEO, then I won’t need a Trump-specific domain name to spread my word.

And, let’s say you are slandered, if another person is using your trademark and/or slandering you, there’s a really good chance you can shut them down through the legal system – and it’s typically not a big company fighting you, but an individual that lacks sufficient legal resources to counter attack.

So save some time and a lot of money and stop buying domains you don’t need.

How-to start up an international search marketing campaign

If you’re thinking about taking your search marketing to the international markets, my first word of caution is that what works in the USA does not necessarily translate to success overseas. There are a number of reasons for this – different types of technology (international markets may be more mobile dependent or have lower bandwidth); new competitors in the decision set; varying consumer sentiment; and so on.

So my next piece of advice is to make sure you are really good at local search. If you don’t have that locked down, reconsider going international until you do. International search simply introduces lots of complexity that you shouldn’t try to tackle until you’ve mastered search in your own back yard.

Still ready? Here are five pointers to consider:

  1. Local domains for your search ad copy and landing pages. Dave Lloyd over at Adobe penned a great article for ClickZ on the topic. Simply put, make sure your ads have a local domain extension. So if you are advertising in the UK, make sure you have a UK-familiar URL, such as myLandingPage.co.uk or similar. You can always have the funnel ultimate redirect back to your main .com; even better, to your main .com with a local directory such as myWebSite.com/uk.
  2. Have a dedicated landing page for the specific market. So using the UK example, you should have a special landing page that has the region in the meta data, header tags and body copy so that the machines, search engines and humans interacting with your landing page know without a doubt you are providing an offer to people in the UK. Make sure your headlines and copy are tailored for the market’s culture and language.
  3. Localize your search ads. When you are writing your search ad copy, make sure you use proper language consistent with the market. If you’re speaking to the UK, consider little nuances like “colour” versus “color” or “internationalisation” versus “internationalization”. And be wary of clichés, expressions and humor that might not be understood in the market. Stick to the facts and be very clear/concise in your ad copy. And, certain words have different meanings (even in the same language). Rubber typically means something different on the streets of LA than the streets of London.
  4. Display ads should be similarly tailored. Don’t assume that if it worked as a display ad in the USA, it will work elsewhere. That goes for all elements – animation, the type of people and images featured, how they appear and are positioned and even animals — all influence how different cultures interact with advertisements.
  5. Understand how locals think. My best quick advice is to start searching for your keywords using overseas search engines (google.co.uk) and see what types of ads your competitors are using. Hit their sites so you get remarketed to and then start browsing local websites to review banner ads. You’ll probably see some immediate differences. You need to understand your audience in the target market and what makes them different from your USA market. This will help you zero in on creating personalized and engaging ads (and landing pages).

And of course with any digital campaign remember the basics:

  1. Don’t start until you understand what your objective is.
  2. Don’t start until you understand how to measure the results.
  3. Test, test, test.

Getting videos watched on YouTube

One of the questions I field regularly is how to improve the visibility of videos on YouTube. The answer is quite simple: start with highly sought after content. It’s not as hard as you think and the secret ingredients are in your web browser’s search history. People generally want two types of videos: entertainment and informational. Everything else is crap and won’t rack up many views. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to ignore entertainment videos. These are music videos, funny home videos, clips from mainstream entertainment and of course, cats. So let’s focus on the other category – informational.

People go to search engines typically looking for answers to their questions. So, make sure your videos provide those answers. How-to videos, informational snippets and overviews of processes all do well. For example, “how to fix a leaky toilet”, “how to test your smoke detector”, “how to solve a square root”, “how to remove wallpaper”, “how to fry an egg”. Get it yet? This is what people want. It’s what people search for. If you have a video like this, when people search, they’ll see a big icon for the video, and be immediately drawn to it. Search engines love videos, because searchers click the videos. As a result, they tend to rank highly and they get more clicks. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy which is the search paradox I’m always discussing.

At American Public University, we took very expensive, Hollywood-style production videos and placed them on YouTube. Sure, some of our prospective students watched them. And they are great videos. They were expensive videos. So they have a few thousand views after a year. We then took some low budget, crudely produced videos on how to solve the most common K-12 math problems like polynomial equations, sine/cosine, adding fractions, etc. These took a few minutes each to produce and cost basically nothing. In the past three years since adding the videos to YouTube, iTunesU, and our site, www.CampusMath.com, we’ve had nearly 2,000,000 views of the series. Why? It’s what people want! It’s what students are searching for.

Give people what they want.

Also important is the proper naming, tagging and description of a video. That will help the search engines connect searchers with the videos. It’s easy. Create a short title – about 40 characters or so. Make sure you have a dominate identifying keyword. Then, create a description, no more than about 250 characters. Include more keywords that identify your content. That’s really it. Here’s a good article that goes into more depth with regards to ensuring discoverability of your content.

We’ll leave another important topic to cover on another day – marketing your videos if you are a small business. I have some more tips on that later…

Google’s auto complete, a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Google’s auto complete feature suggests the search words/phrases that most commonly match what you are typing in real time.

For example, if nearly everyone typing “and” end up typing “android”, Google will suggest that through it’s auto complete feature, designed to save you time. It’s also designed to “help” your searching by showing you what the majority of other people typing similar phrases selected.

From Google’s help site:

As you type, autocomplete predicts and displays queries to choose from. The search queries that you see as part of autocomplete are a reflection of the search activity of all web users and the content of web pages indexed by Google. If you’re signed in to your Google Account and have Web History enabled, you might also see search queries from relevant searches that you’ve done in the past. In addition, Google+ profiles can sometimes appear in autocomplete when you search for a person’s name. Apart from the Google+ profiles that may appear, all of the predicted queries that are shown in the drop-down list have been typed previously by Google users or appear on the web.
 
For certain queries, Google will show separate predictions for just the last few words. Below the word that you’re typing in the search box, you’ll see a smaller drop-down list containing predictions based only on the last words of your query. While each prediction shown in the drop-down list has been typed before by Google users or appears on the web, the combination of your primary text along with the completion may be unique.

But does this really benefit users? Sure, it’s a time saver, but it may also steer people away from less common phrases that may in fact be more accurate.

Google Auto Complete

Source: Google — Sample of auto complete feature for “new…”

Why does that matter?

As more people use auto complete and select the most common results for the suggested phrase, the more Google will continue to show those suggested results, further pushing down the less popular results.

Showing more popular results is part of nearly all search engine algorithms, but if you consistently steer users towards one option over another, that other option will be artificially increased in affinity/popularity.

This could be really bad for a business. Let’s say someone searches for a company and they want to read about negative reviews/scams. So they search for the company’s name + scams. If a few more people do it, it may get picked up by the auto complete algorithm.This means every time someone searches for the company’s name moving forward, “scams” will be suggested until enough people stop clicking that phrase to tell Google otherwise. Wouldn’t a user who otherwise was not looking to read scams be somewhat intrigued to click that suggested term, even if that’s not their original intent? And every click reinforces “scam” as a suggested term. It then becomes harder and harder for a business to reverse this – even if there are no scams or negative reviews to begin with.

This is very similar to the term “google bombing“. Where users can potentially “game” Google’s search algorithm. Albeit, the good folks at Google are always working on improving the algorithm to reduce this, it can still happen.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Google. But, I’d love to see some studies on the psychological and socioeconomic impacts of suggesting terms.

Malware still infiltrating major search engines

I find it challenging to understand why there’s still seemingly minimal innovation in the area of protecting searchers from malware infected websites. This seems to be a no-brainer from my perspective: protect your customers, and they will continue to come back. But I think the problem stems from customer naivety – they don’t know what they clicked will hurt them, and that they were infected because of a link they clicked on from the search results.

The major search engines need to better partner with security companies to protect their customers – and ultimately their revenue source. A simple pre-filter could stop many infiltrations of malware and protect the net.

Read more here about how the latest studies show the major engines failing in this area: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/197972/bing-google-ad-seriously-impacted-by-malware.html