Some challenges with name changing
Matthew: Yeah, a couple of things. One is it seemed to be kind of a, you know, if you’re preparing for something you think is going to be a big deal, you’re going to get a lot of feedback about it, a lot of comments, and it just turns out your customers don’t tend to care that much. They’re like, oh, OK, new name, got it.
And you’re not going to get a lot of feedback about it either way. A couple of people have said, hey, nice name change, but that’s about it and you know, after I made the change the business just kind of went on as normal. So it’s something you think is going to be a big thing and it ends up not being a big thing in the short term, immediately after it happens.
James: Yeah. I’m so not scared of changing names. The sort of reaction I get from members is like, “Oh, cool.”
Matthew: Yeah, that’s pretty much it.
James: I didn’t know you do that because I now put everything in one thing. I didn’t even know you did that because I had these partitioned businesses and brought them all together. It just made sense. The best solutions are always simple in hindsight. I think that’s Eli Goldratt saying. It’s always obvious in hindsight.
Matthew: Yeah. The other thing is, if you’re going to switch domain names, even if you do a 301 redirect, it still takes Google a few weeks to kind of realize that you switched domains and all that stuff has happened. And you can tell them that you’re switching domains, but for me, I probably took a 2 or 4 week dip in traffic when I made that change, and I kind of new it was coming, I didn’t know what the scale of it would be, but it’s something you have to be aware of and kind of prepare for.
James: And you also have to see what sort of reputation the domain you want to move to has. You will transfer your page rank, and you will transfer backlinks, but you want to also pay attention to what’s already pointing to that thing. If it’s had a tarnished reputation or being blacklisted. Maybe it was used in part of a blog network and it’s been toxic or fingerprinted by all these tools on a bad domain, bad neighborhood, etc.
Matthew: And how do we do this?
James: One thing is you can type site: and then the domain name, and see what’s pointing to it. How many pages are indexed to it. Once you hook it up to Google Webmaster Tools, you might get a little peak at what’s pointing to it, and you can use other tools like Majestic SEO or ahrefs.com to see what’s going on or SEMrush. These tools should give you a bit of a picture as to what’s happening with that domain. Google aren’t going to update pagerank anymore, so you might not see it in your browser. But you might get a feel for some historical value for it.
But the main thing is you just want to check that it is actually indexed. If your site is not indexed at all, that could be a big indicator there’s a problem. In the old days, you’d have a great out pagerank bar, but these days, point your domain to a server, put up an index.html or index.php page and put some text like new site and see if it pops up and gets indexed. If you get indexed, then it’s probably going to be fine.
I think you can actually submit to Google Webmaster Tools a reconsideration request. I’ve had domains knocked off and then restored when I’ve sent them an explanation. There was one domain, which I’d purchased, and for some reason just was not showing up and I’d installed a software app onto this domain, and I put in a Google reconsideration request, showed them that this is a legit domain and here’s how it serves people, and they restored it and it popped up straight back away, it was really good.
Matthew: Yeah, it’s important to know that a manual penalty like that from Google is not the end of the world. I’ve gotten a couple on my sites for just kind of random reasons. And if you fix whatever they tell you to fix and you remove the bad pages they don’t want, you send a reconsideration request, you almost always get it taken care of. It’s not the end of the world.
James: Yeah. Just don’t fly into a big name change onto some corrupt domain. So just put it up first, see that it’s good, and then switch it across.
Getting a good deal
If you want to get a feel for what prices might be on a domain, there’s a great website called DN Sale Price. I don’t think it’s updated anymore, but it certainly has good historical record of stuff probably up to 2013. You can punch in a couple of two-word domains. Most of them are going to give you a range of prices. Often, they’re in the $2,000 or $3,000 price range.
I think I’ve talked about the process of how you can save money buying domains in one of the other podcasts. But often, if a domain is listed for sale, like the person is actively trying to sell it, you can go through a negotiation process. One of the keys is to not make a ridiculously, low, silly offer. I think it’s not respectful of people to make a lowball offer.
If you’re looking at a $5,000 domain, sending a $50 offer is just insulting. You wouldn’t send anything less than a thousand dollars for a domain like that. Often, you’ll be able to pick it up for $2,000 or $3,000 if they’re asking 5, or $1,000 if they’re asking 2 for example. Often, 50% is good. But if you find a great domain and someone really knows it, you’re going to be paying pretty close to what they’re asking for.
So, other challenges, let’s see. You’ve changed the name of your business, you’ve told the customers who used to deal with the old brand. From the new day forward, everyone knew only knows the new ones. So that’s pretty easy. You’ve checked the reputation, you’ve protected yourself with some kind of a trademark if possible, and now, often you’ll do a design upgrade as well. I think that’s sort of an important aspect.
If you’re going to change the domain and you get a fresh start, you might as well look at things like how you want to be perceived in the market. Your logo might get an update and your design of the website and the material should all probably be redone with a style guide, and that would be a guideline as to what your colors are, the look and feel of your website, and every document you do, whether it’s a website, an email, a PDF, should all follow the style guideline.
I learned this sort of stuff from a big brand like Mercedes-Benz who are so active in preserving their reputation. Their brand quality is preserved through very strict guidelines on how that brand can be used, like you must have the words a certain distance from the star. There must be nothing within a certain distance of the star and the words for example. They’re really, really fussy, but it certainly shows because it’s one of the top two brands in the world probably.
Matthew: Absolutely, yeah. We did a new logo and we changed the name of our business. I paid an agency to do that and do it right, and the logo we came out with is pretty simple, but it works, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
One other mistake that I made when doing the switch was I’d kind of forgotten to tell my business partners that we were changing the name, so there were a couple of advertising agencies that I do business with, and they found out when everybody else did, and it probably would have been a good idea to give them some heads up saying hey, we’re going to do this on this date. So you should probably tell your advertisers that’s happening too, and I just kind of forgot to do that, so it’s important to, you know, like who else, what other companies interact with this website, and they probably need to know too ahead of time.
James: Yeah, that it is important so everyone on the team, any stakeholder who you deal with would be good. There are other little side complexities. If you are rolling together a few brands like I’ve done, so we’ve got two slightly different case studies here. We’ve got one with just a straight name swap, the other where you’re porting a few different things together. It can change the way you have navigation on your site.
When I had stand alone brands because they were single products mostly, they mostly had the sales offer at the home page. And when I switched to an all-in-one, then I had to come up with a new way to navigate through products. We use what’s called a product chooser, where people can navigate quickly to the part of the website that they need. So each segment of the website effectively became a mirror of what used to be on the old website but it had a front layer put on top. So give some thought to it, but keep it as simple as you possibly can. That’s really the overriding factor.
Just to recap, it’s simply finding a better name than what you have. You’re making sure everyone involved is informed about it. It’s having a little timeline or process of how you might go about the logistics, which will be setting up the new thing and then pointing everything across, letting everyone know. That’s probably a good time to start attending your analytics and checking things like your rankings and your traffic and how people navigate through your site and how they’re responding to the brand. After a small settling in period, you’re probably better off for the whole experience.
I wonder if there’s anything else we should talk about for this episode.
Matthew: I just think you’ve done a really good job of communicating. You brought 4 or 5 things under one domain name, and it’s still pretty easy to navigate to understand what you offer, and what the various options are. And I just think that serves as a good example of what people can do when they’re trying to offer 4 or 5 services at once.
James: Yeah. It’s really hard to simplify the complex. But I think we’ve had a fairly interesting process through that journey. Thank you also for the feedback. I did hire an expert on conversions at one point to help me reorganize it a little bit. That was Peep Laja. He’s from ConversionXL. He basically gave me some really good feedback on how to navigate people through to where they’re going. He talked to me about this idea of pogo sticking. Originally, the way we approached it was to put our brands on our master website and people would click on them, and then he said, “Well, they don’t really know what your brand is. So they have to click on it to find out. And if it’s not what they though it is, then they go back.” That’s called pogo sticking.
So now we changed it to customer facing wording, like “Help me with my website,” “I need more traffic” and “Coaching products.” We actually changed “I want coaching” to “Coaching products” because the products navigation tab on my website is the one that lights up like a Christmas tree on our heatmaps. People want to know what I’ve got. So they’re clicking on that Products tab. When people click on the Products tab, we do our very best to help them find the right section.
We’ve color coded the sections. The colors run right through that section. If they go into the website section, for example it’s purple, and all the options in the website are purple so that they can get a sense for where they are within the website, and over a lot of iterations, I think we’re up to about 8th version of the website, and we’ve got the next one coming through soon.
We’re trying to just remove elements, simplify, and we focus really heavily on our navigation with heatmaps and with Google Analytics. We want to get someone where they need to be quickly and easily so that they get the most value from their visit. It’s such a fascinating thing. In fact, if someone has multiple products and they’re trying to sell them, I would highly recommend getting the OwnTheRacecourse theme. We actually sell our theme. There’s an ad for on our sidebar because so many people have thought, “Well, you know what, he spent all this time and effort to figure it out. We’ll just copy it.”
So we just make it. It even comes with sales page templates built in, and it’s a fast start at least to something that converts. So use the opportunity when you’re changing your name to rethink about every aspect of your business. Question everything. Is what we were doing before the right way? If our name wasn’t perfect, I wonder if our website is ideal. I wonder if our logo needs a rejig. I wonder if we could do something a bit cleaner or smarter on the next one. That’s pretty much our default position. We question everything on an ongoing basis. That’s how we keep iterating.
Peter Drucker said that the key to success in business is marketing and innovation. So a name change is such a great innovation. Use it as an opportunity to leap forward in more than just a small increment. Make it a big leap forward.
The personal side of things
Matthew, I think we’ve probably covered the subject of successfully changing your name in business. I think one other aspect we didn’t really talk about is the personal business things, like a lady who might get married and then say, “Hey, what name should I be using now?” Those sort of things can be challenges as well. I don’t know if you’ve encountered that but I’ve certainly seen discussions along those lines before in my own community.
Some people choose their middle name from the beginning so that they could just build out a brand around their first and second name, and that way, it’s going to be interchangeable. A lot of women these days don’t change their name when they get married, so there’s those possibilities.
Matthew: Yeah. There’s an entrepreneur I know who had a divorce recently, she’s a woman, and she had to decide whether or not she’s going to keep her married name or go back to her maiden name, because everyone knows her as her married name, and that definitely can be an issue.
James: Yeah. Both you and I are a little more in favor of business names for things that we might want to sell or distance ourselves from it at some point, in a good way, not in a bad way. Not because we don’t like it but because maybe we change.
One of the reasons I really never developed my own domain name is I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. So maybe one day I won’t be in the Internet business space. I might be a surfboard design company or whatever. I do have a surfboard design business, but it’s only in its very infancy.
The message from this podcast
Think long term. That’s really a message that I’d like to come through from this podcast. Think long term, think very carefully about what name you want and commit to it for a while, unless you get strong feedback that it’s not getting you the results that you were hoping for.
So let’s wrap up this episode, Matthew, because we still have part 6 coming up, which is a very exciting one. It’s website monetization tips, and that will be a great way to end this 6-part series of business case studies. I look forward to catching up with you on that one Matthew. If you want to check out what Matthew’s got going on, head over to mattpaulson.com. That will guide you to his various interests in the online space.
Matthew: Yeah. I think you guys should definitely stick around for Episode 6 of the series. Somebody just paid me $1,000 for one hour of my time to help them monetize their website better, you’re just moving ads around, picking different networks, optimizing, just placements can have a huge impact, and I think we’re going to double this guy’s ad revenue from maybe 3 or 4 grand to 7 or 8 grand overnight just by moving stuff around and optimizing things. So if you’ve got a website with traffic, it’s definitely an episode to listen to.
James: Looking forward to that one Matthew. Speak soon.
Matthew: Thanks, James.
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