In today's Daily Golden Nugget I'm going to explain an important shift in offline advertising and how something very specific, and simple, is making the jump from offline back to online much easier for the average person... Hyphenated domain names.
Since the beginning of the internet there's been an ongoing debate whether or not to use a hyphen in your domain name or not. I clearly remember, back in the mid 90s, having conversations with customers who wanted to know if it was better to have their domain name, for example, say perosi-jewelers.com or perosijewelers.com. I always preferred the non-hyphenated domain name because it was much easier to verbalize.
P E R O S I hyphen J E W E L E R S dot C O M ... that "hyphen" word was just horrible to pronounce or hear. You could say "dash" instead, but that's just as cumbersome. Most of the time people would forget the hyphen by the time they got back to their computer anyway.
Back in the 90s, the cost of domain names was a lot more than what they are now. Buying 1 domain name was expensive enough and the average company didn't think to register alternative spellings, or even misspellings of their domain.
Now that domain names are less expensive, many businesses--large and small--are registering dozens of alternate variations of their domain with different extensions like .net and .org, misspellings, and hyphenations. What's interesting is that these domain names typically sit unused. They're registered simply to protect the brand identity of the respective company.
There was an internet gold rush that some companies took advantage of because they realized that you could register a domain name with hyphens for exact match phrases, like engagement-rings.com, and then use the phrase "engagement rings" dozens of times on every page while also exclusively selling engagement rings on that site.
This technique became so overused that domain names with hyphens developed a bad reputation as "keyword stuffed" and spamming websites that shouldn't be trusted--a reputation that still exists today.
In 2012, Google corrected its algorithm that gave high ranking to exact-match domain names, the same that also used a repeated phrase dozens of times on each page. Since that "algo change" you rarely see domain names with hyphens in search results. It doesn't mean hyphenated domain names are bad, it just means that few legitimate websites are using them.
Technology is advancing rapidly and the internet is now acting as a wireless conduit to control the real world, and at the same time marketing techniques are emerging that allow easy jumps from the real world back to the internet.
QR Codes are one of those techniques that allow people to jump quickly from advertisements back to the internet easily. Sadly most marketing people and business attempting to use QR Codes are struggling to figure out how and why they should be used. The number of people scanning them is still pretty low, but that number is growing according to ScanLife.com and their quarterly reports.
Whenever you use a QR Code in a print ad you should always place it next to the domain name that's also in the ad. Putting the QR and the domain side by side shows people that they can either scan the code or type in the domain name. For those who know what a QR Code is, they will expect that scanning it will bring them to the same domain.
I write a lot about website usability and that you need to make it easy for your users to navigate around your site. Let's take that concept and apply it to offline advertising. Take a look at this domain name:
Is that easy to read? When I see long domain names like this I find that I get frustrated trying to figure out where the word breaks are. Adding capitalizations into the domain would make it easier to read like this:
Even though that's easier to read, it might still be difficult to comprehend in a print ad depending on the font that you're using. Now look at this variation:
By far that's the easiest version to read, but there's no one who really wants to type that into their web browser. That's where the QR Code comes into play because a smartphone user should recognize that scanning the QR is faster than typing in the domain.
Using the hyphens in your domain name make your marketing message easier to read and remember. Using the QR Code gives some users the ability to jump to your website at that moment they see your ad. Both the domain and the QR should actually point back to your main website, whatever that might be.
This recommendation for the QR Code and hyphenated domain names is only good for print ads. You should not use hyphenated domain names with in person conversations, telephone, radio, or spoken in TV ads. But hyphenated domains would be good for TV ads if you are flashing the domain at the bottom of the screen without verbalizing it. Don't use a QR Code in a TV ad; that's just silly.
Use hyphenated domain names in the ads when they are placed in high activity areas like billboards, signs on the side of a bus, bus/train station... these are all areas where someone has a brief amount of time to look at your ad and using the hyphens will make your domain readable much faster.
Use hyphened domains and QR Codes together in ads where people will have more than 90 seconds of exposure to the ad. This could be a magazine, sign at a bus stop, grocery store shopping cart, sign at a local bar, etc.
When you use QR Code and hyphenated domains (or any domain variation for that matter) in marketing, you should add a layer of tracking to their use. Use different tracking on the QR Code and the domain so you can measure how many people manually typed in the domain vs. how many scanned.
One easy way to create a QR Code with tracking is to use the www.bit.ly URL shortening service. You could enter the ad's landing page into Bitly and it will give you a shortened URL with a QR. Reporting is built into the Bitly service.
Tracking the domain name itself will be a little more difficult. Many registrars will allow you to redirect your alternate domain names to your primary domain, but they don't provide tracking. You're going to have to ask your website programmer how best to set this up for you.
Here's how it all pulls together in bullet point format:
* Register a hyphenated version of your regular domain name.
* Hyphenated domain names are easier to read and remember when read in offline ads.
* Point your hyphenated domain name to your normal website, but don't masquerade it. It needs to be a redirect otherwise you will have duplicate content.
* Don't spend money trying to rank a domain name with a hyphen. All evidence shows that you will be fighting an uphill battle and it is a waste of your money.
* Use a QR Code in all offline ads where it makes sense that your reader will have time to scan the QR.
* Track the people who manually type in the hyphenated domain name.
* Track the people who scan the QR Code separately than those who type the domain in.
One final bit of advice is that you don't have to limit yourself to hyphenating your normal domain name; you could create event specific domain names like enter-our-diamond-contest.com, but just make sure you also register the non hyphened version enterourdiamondcontent.com as well.