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Tim Peter Thinks

Tim Peter

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August 9, 2012

Top Posts for July

August 9, 2012 | By | No Comments

Every so often, we round up the top posts from the last month. Here were July’s:

Um… I sense a trend.


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Tim Peter & Associates helps companies from startups to the Fortune 500 use the web to reach more customers, more effectively every day. Take a look and see how we can help you.

Tim Peter

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December 20, 2011

A Final Thought on Subdirectories and SEO

December 20, 2011 | By | 2 Comments

SEO urlSo last week, I wrote two (lengthy) posts about why subdirectories are (usually) better than subdomains for your SEO efforts and why subdirectories are (usually) better than subdomains for your brand efforts. Then, yesterday, I go ahead and announce my new travel vertical blog, “TravelStuff” by using—wait for it—a subdomain instead of a subdirectory (“travelstuff.timpeter.com” instead of “timpeter.com/travelstuff”).

Now, if you were like me, it probably drove you nuts as as kid when your mom and dad said, “Do as I say, not as I do.” (Sorry, Dad, if you’re reading this. And you know you are.)

Anyway, what gives? Why am I telling you to do as I say, not as I do?

Well, ignoring for a moment that I’m not your mom or dad (unless my kids are reading this… yeah, that will happen), I’m going to point out a weasel clause from the branding piece:

“Some services—usually social sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Flickr, and Slideshare—can help you build your brand and require using their URL with your brand and/or a generic identifier appended to it. Obviously, if the service helps you meet the needs of your customers and doesn’t offer you a better URL option, then go with their URL scheme.”

As it happens, I’ve used WordPress to host TravelStuff since I started it a little over 5 years ago. At the time, it was a convenient way of capturing notes and links and thoughts. Now, I could move all that content over to my Dreamhost-powered blogging platform (i.e., the one that “Thinks” sits on), create a new “Travel Stuff” category for each of the blog posts, incorporate the category scheme on “TravelStuff” into the “Thinks” categories, setup a 301-redirect from WordPress to timpeter.com and pray that all the lovely link juice continued to flow.

Or I could hit myself in the head with a hammer.

The second one sounds like more fun.

Happily, WordPress provides an alternative (as do most other blogging platforms): You can set up a redirect to WordPress from your primary domain (timpeter.com, in this case), but only as a subdomain. In other words, I can continue to host “TravelStuff” on WordPress and send traffic to it as though it’s part of the timpeter.com network. What I can’t do is redirect that traffic using timpeter.com/insert-blog-name-here, only insert-blog-name-here.timpeter.com.

“Wait-a-minnit,” you say. “Can’t I just use ‘Insert-Blog-Name-Here.com’ and skip the subdomain troubles? Doesn’t WordPress support that, too?”

Yes, they do.

But it brings me to the second point of the weasel clause:

“My rule of thumb is always optimize for customers first, search engines second. There’s also an argument that having your brand appear on multiple sites as either a subdomain or subdirectory can help you dominate the search results page for your brand. It’s a great idea and worth exploring if you’ve got the bandwidth to support it. But put the focus first on what helps your customers.”

As I’d mentioned in the branding piece, cutting through the clutter requires a.) cash, and b.) consistency. Wherever possible, I put all my work on the timpeter.com domain. My brand is Tim Peter & Associates. The blog is called “Tim Peter Thinks.” I’m Tim Peter on LinkedIn. And so on.

In this case, it was more important for me to keep brand consistency and reduce clutter for customers by using travelstuff.timpeter.com than to try and grow another brand. In other words, I chose the best available option for my customers and for my business.

By which I mean to underscore both of my prior posts. In the real world, SEO is one consideration. A major consideration, sure. But only one of them. Ultimately, in the real world, we make our decisions based on a number of factors. If I could go back in time and set up TravelStuff from scratch, would I choose to do it differently? Probably. But if I could go back in time, where I hosted a blog focused on a customer vertical still wouldn’t be the first thing I worried about.

Maybe somewhere down the road I’ll move TravelStuff to a subdirectory and do everything all right and proper.

But, in the meantime, I will focus on creating the right content to meet the needs of my readers, regardless of where it’s hosted. And I continue to recommend the same to you.


Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

Or subscribe via email.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to follow Tim on Twitter.

Tim Peter & Associates helps companies from startups to the Fortune 500 use the web to reach more customers, more effectively every day. Take a look and see how we can help you.

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Tim Peter

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December 15, 2011

Subdomains and Subdirectories for Branding

December 15, 2011 | By | 2 Comments

Yesterday, we took a long, long, long, long… (you get the idea), look at the pros and cons of subdomains and subdirectories for SEO. But, I glossed over the benefits and disadvantages to brands of the different options. Let’s take a look, shall we?

SEO, Branding and URL Choices

Branding is a funny thing, in some ways more art than science (though, you can easily argue the same about SEO, too). While there are more formal definitions, I usually think about brands as representing the sum of every interaction your customers have with you:

Brand SEO

So, by definition, SEO plays a role in branding. If a customer looks for you on a search engine and can’t find you, that hurts both your business today (transactions) and your business tomorrow (brand). Ever hear someone say, “I looked for them on Google but couldn’t find them”? Experiences like that subtract from the overall experience customers have with you and diminish your brand.

Of course, your customers have to search for you in the first place before that experience can contribute to—or detract from—their brand experience. Yesterday, we listed the various types of URLs you can use for your business’s blog. In the interest of your time (and sanity), I’m not going to recap the differences (see the original post for more details), but list the types for your reference:

  1. www.YourBrand.com/YourBlog
  2. YourBlog.YourBrand.com
  3. YourBlog.SomeoneElsesBrand.com
  4. www.YourBLOG.com

I particularly like #1 from an SEO and ease of management perspective. As it happens, I also think it’s the right one from a branding perspective in most cases. Here’s why.

In the excellent book “Kellog on Branding,” the authors list three challenges anyone building a brand faces:

  1. Cash
  2. Consistency
  3. Clutter

In other words, do you have the cash to get your message in front of every customer you want? …employees and partners who convey your message the same way every time? …a special way to be heard among the mess of messages in the marketplace?

So, ignoring SEO considerations for a moment, which of the four URL choices above works best from a cash, consistency, and clutter perspective?

Usually, it’s #1.

You’re already working to build your company’s brand. Your existing customers already know how to find you online. You’ve probably got the URL on every piece of collateral material (and if you don’t, just tell me you do for now, then go fix that). What benefit is there in giving your customers yet another place to try and find you?

That’s not to say I’ve never built a specific campaign using URL’s like those in #2, #3, and #4. It’s that when I’ve done it, it’s been with a very specific understanding of how to address the cash, consistency and clutter challenges. Since I believe that URLs should live forever, these usually aren’t short-term decisions. #1 isn’t a perfect choice for every single instance. But it’s rarely a bad choice for most situations. If you’re leaning towards one of the other options, just be sure and think through the implications of your choice for the long term. Which, really, is what brand building is all about.

Also, remember that you can use multiple domains (and domain types) to point to the same content, either as a tracking mechanism or to target specific customer segments so long as you use a 301 redirect. For example, I do this with the blog, using both timpeter.com/blog and thinksblog.com to direct traffic here.

Conclusion

As important as choosing the right URL is from an SEO and branding standpoint, none of these choices will provide you significant benefit if you lack quality content and your fair share of inbound links. Domains are only one (important) part of your SEO and branding picture.

But they’re not the whole picture.

When in doubt, pick the one that you can support most readily (cash and consistency) and that doesn’t confuse your customer (clutter). Then put your focus on building quality content and driving links to it. That will do at least as much in improving your SEO and improving your customer’s experience. When it all comes together, that’s what builds your brand.

URL Selection Note: Some services—usually social sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Flickr, and Slideshare—can help you build your brand and require using their URL with your brand and/or a generic identifier appended to it. Obviously, if the service helps you meet the needs of your customers and doesn’t offer you a better URL option, then go with their URL scheme. My rule of thumb is always optimize for customers first, search engines second. There’s also an argument that having your brand appear on multiple sites as either a subdomain or subdirectory can help you dominate the search results page for your brand. It’s a great idea and worth exploring if you’ve got the bandwidth to support it. But put the focus first on what helps your customers.

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