Web Usability & Website Optimization

Web Usability and SEO
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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Choosing Domain names from Usability perspective

Web usability does not start from designing user friendly web application; it actually starts from very beginning i.e. registering a domain name for your website.

Registering a user friendly domain is very important from both user as well as search engine point of view. A simple, short, sweet, easy to remember combination of words should be the basic criteria for choosing domain name for your website.
Well this doesn't make sense if your company's brand is well known, you are lucky because you don’t have to think much but just go and register your brand as domain for your website and happily skip following guidelines.

Below are some important tips and guidelines on choosing a right domain name:

  • Keep it short - You are free to create a domain name of any length up to maximum of 67 characters, but registering lengthier domains would be of less help as people can forget such names easily. So when ‘toyshopnewyork.com’ can do a good job for your business then why to register a domain like ‘allkindsofkidstoysatjonysshopinnewyork.com
  • Keyword rich domain – People who love and are very obsessed about their family names tend to name their business by family name, this is ok as far as physical office/shop is concerned but when it comes to online business you just have to leave it at your home because nobody in this world will search a business with someone's family name until and unless its a well known brand like "Ford", so if you run a toy shop and register a domain like ‘Jonybreigsstore.com’, it gives no advantage to you but if you register a keyword rich area specific domain for your store like ‘toystorenewyork.com’, believe me it’s going to help you a lot because if someone wants to search for toys shop in New York they will most probably use the key phrases like "toy shop in newyork" or "toys shop new york" etc and you have already got them into your main domain so people will find your shop more easily compared to jonybreigsstore.com.
  • Avoid Internet slang - Using slang’s (used mainly in chats) like 4 in place of "for", ur for "your" etc while deciding a domain name creates confusion e.g. if you register ‘something4u.com, the chances are some user may type ‘somethingforu.com’, some may try ‘something4you.com’ and even some may use ‘somethingforyou.com’ to reach to your website. If you can't resist yourself and just want such domain name (using some slang words) then make sure you also register other combinations that sounds same as your actual domain and forward them to the domain of your choice.
  • Abbreviated Domains - Abbreviated form of less/not-at-all popular phrase should be avoided, e.g. someone runs a store in New York (something store) but prefer abbreviated form for the domain as ‘ssny.com’ but in reality it means ‘somethingstorenewyork.com’, it might be good for the owner but may not be a good idea from the users point of view, they may try the full form and to counteract such circumstances, register both abbreviated and full form and forward the full form domain to abbreviated domain of your choice.
  • Hyphenated Domain Names - People think hyphen separated keyword rich domains is a part of search engine optimization, well that’s true but search engines give equal importance to the keywords in a domain name without hyphens too, so why to worry. In case you can't avoid hyphens in your website name e.g. you register ‘some-thing-business.com’, register it but also register ‘somethingbusiness.com’ and forward it to ‘some-thing-business.com
  • .com version - If the website is for your business, then you must register a .com version for your website, in case it’s not possible and you need/want other extensions like .net/.biz/.org only then register it as your first choice and then register .com version of the same site and forward it to your main domain (.net/.biz/.org/other version). This is because the .com version is oldest on web and people more likely use it while visiting any site because many of us still think that 'if it’s a website it should end up to .com and nothing else'.
If you think that buying multiple domains can put a big hole in your pocket, then just think about the brighter side, can you afford to miss potential customers just for additional $10* per year?, I guess No ;)

Last very important note: Today there are around 100 million registered domains on the web and the number is just increasing so the moment you think of registering a domain name for your website, just buy it that same moment because possibility is that you might not get it the very next minute.

*On an average domain registration fee per year comes to around $10 per year

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Improve Title and Meta Tags for users

Are the Title tag and Meta tags in every HTML page made only for search engines?
The answer to this question is Yes as well as No.
‘Yes’ because many search engines still rely on the text inside these tags while ranking pages but the major search engines (the most popular like Google, Yahoo, MSN) are getting smarter & smarter and gives lower priority to at least the Meta tags when it comes to their ranking algorithm.
‘No’ because if you write these tags keeping in mind only the search engines and don’t consider your users then you are probably risking the search engine traffic.

No matter what algorithm these search engines use for ranking web pages, what you see on the search result page is Title tag text linked to the site and small description about the site that most probably comes from the Meta Description tag. So when the search result appears, visitors just glance through the different listings, compare them and click on the result that satisfies their needs.

Google search result for web usability

If the title and description tags are just stuffed with keywords and key phrases the same may appear on the search result page, but because the title and description does not provide a brief idea about the target page, many of the searchers may just ignore such listings.

So make a point to write Title tag that should provide the theme of the page and the description inside the Meta Description tag should be short description of the page.
As far as other tags are concerned, you shouldn’t worry about them, search engines just ignore them and so you can.