Posts tagged ‘Brand Recognition’

Does the Shoe Fit – What Is Your Digital Footprint?

I was inspired to write this post due to an article in this week’s Wall Street Journal titled, “Creating An Online Presence Is Essential For Job Hunters,” by Marty Orgel. In this article, the author stresses the importance of creating an online presence to aid in job search and placement. Googling potential job applicants is becoming common practice in today’s Web 2.0 job search environment. According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, “Your CV is no longer what you send to your employer – it’s the first ten things that show up on Google” (Coutu, 2007). Results of a Google search are part of your online presence. This presence is often called your “digital footprint”. So what is your digital footprint? And how big is it?

How big is our digital footprint?

According to Wikipedia.com, your digital footprint is the trace you leave through your activity in a digital environment. This is commonly believed to be your visits to websites, searches, online profiles, email, blog or forum posts, etc. But your digital footprint can go even farther than that. For example, try out this online simulator that illustrates how you leave a digital footprint each day. Another resource that you can use to find out how quickly your digital footprint grows is the Digital Footprint Calculator. This calculator illustrates how much information you create and add to the digital universe each day. Another interesting article to help you track your digital footprint with iGoogle Widgets is described here if you want to voluntarily hand it [your digital footprint] over.

How do I create a digital footprint?

Individuals have both passive and active footprints. Passive footprints occur without any intervention from the individual. Common examples of passive digital footprints occur via cookies and caching. Most websites that you visit will leave a cookie on your computer. Cookies store information about you on your own computer that can be accessed during later visits to the web site. This is how the computer “recognizes” returning visitors. One particularly nice pro is that you do not have to remember login information at certain sites. For example, I don’t have to “log on” to the Wall Street Journal web site when I use my office computer to access it. It remembers who I am automatically. While this is convenient, cookies placed on my computer can store data that can be matched up with my ISP, my e-mail address, and possibly my home address (if I was to enter personal information into a form). We will discuss cookies more in a later post. Caching is a method of storing information that browsers and search engines use to record web sites or search terms for later use. If you want to reduce your passive footprints, you might delete these cookies and caches, follow steps listed in articles such as the following “Step Carefully: Covering Digital Footprint Is Key to Web Privacy”, by Brian O’Connell, or “Footprints in Cyberspace“, by Michele Alperin. But to completely prevent adding any additions to your footprint, you might crawl into a cave in the wilderness, hunt and grow your own food, and play marbles for entertainment.

Active footprints are information that we voluntarily contribute – such as personal or professional websites, vitas, photos, email, blogs, publications, etc. Creating a profile on a social networking site or commenting or posting to a blog is an active footprint – even if you don’t want your boss to see it. Terry (2008) discusses how employers and potential employers use the web to evaluate individuals. The article quotes Ryan Vartoogian, president of Spartan Internet Consulting Corp., as saying “It gives us a general idea of the professionalism of a candidate.” The article also cites a December 2007 study by CareerBuilder.com that suggests 45% of employers reported using online search engines or social networking sites to research job candidates. Thus, with the advent of Web 2.0 (the term describing the trend on the WWW to toward collaboration, information sharing, and social networking), active footprints are becoming more prevalent and thus it may be in your interest to manage yours.

Why do we care about our digital footprint?

According to a Pew Internet Report, 47% of individuals have searched for information about themselves online. This has often been called a “vanity” search or an “ego” search. Whatever the negative connotation, they are wise searches to do – especially for upcoming college graduates. According to the study, more than half of all adult internet users have used a search engine to follow someone else’s footprints. 11% of these users were looking for information about someone they were thinking about hiring. 19% were looking for information on co-workers, professional colleagues or business competitors. According to the survey, they were looking for contact information (72%), professional accomplishments or interests (37%), profile on social or professional networking sites (33%), photos (31%), public records, (31%), and personal background information (28%).

Other interesting results from the Pew Internet survey suggest that “10% of internet users have a job that requires them to self-promote or market their name online”; “20% of American adults say their employers have special policies about how employees can present themselves online”; and “90% of information an individual locates about themselves say most of what they find is accurate”.

Be proactive. Manage your online footprint. Reduce the elasticity of your services by making your footprint stand out. Do this through such things as intelligent blog entries, joining websites of professional organizations, publishing papers online, and creating a professional website. Don’t make careless online blog or forum entries or post inappropriate personal pictures on social networking sites. Build your online reputation. Your name is your personal brand. Build your brand recognition. You might even consider buying your name as a domain name. The TLDs .name and .me have been set aside for just that purpose.

As an aside, sometimes your digital footprint gets tangled in a mass of footprints by others - many of which share the same name. The individuals sharing your name on the Internet are now being dubbed “googlegangers”. If you are lucky enough to have the same name as famous individuals, then making your name stand out will be more difficult. In some cases there is little that you can do about it. If a search of your name yields undesirable results about individuals that may be mistaken as you, you might share this with a potential employer if you think this may make a difference.

Articles Cited and Further Reading

“Footprints in Cyberspace,” by Michele Alperin, 01/30/08, http://161.58.97.168/200801/80130s02.html.

“We Googled You”. By: Coutu, Diane, Palfrey, Jr., John G., Joerres, Jeffrey A., Boyd, Danah M., Fertik, Michael, Harvard Business Review, 00178012, Jun2007, Vol. 85, Issue 6

“How to Track Your Digital Footprint with iGoogle Widgets,” Virginia DeBolt, http://www.ehow.com/how_2161698_track-digital-footprint-igoogle-widgets.html, accessed 7, 23, 2008.

“Digital Footprints: Online identity management and search in the age of transparency,” by Mary Madden, Susannah Fox, Aaron Smith, and Jessica Vitak, 12/16/2007, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Digital_Footprints.pdf

“Step Carefully: Covering Digital Footprint Is Key to Web Privacy”, Brian O’Connell, NODA Federal Credit Union, http://hffo.cuna.org/18592/article/2382/html

“What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software”, Tim O’Reilly, 09/30/2005, www.oreillynet.com, http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html

“Creating An Online Presence Is Essential For Job Hunters”, Marty Orgel, Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2008, http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20080723-705677.html?mod=moj_industries

“Leaving a digital footprint: Online activities follow students to job interviews, professional world,” Joseph Terry, The State News, February 7, 2008, http://www.statenews.com/index.php/article/2008/02/leaving_a_digital_footprint

What’s My Domain Name?

This will be the first of several posts I plan to do on the topic of domain names. I thought it best to first understand what a domain name is before going into the economics of domain names in later posts. To find a starting point for discussion, I simply googled the word “name”. On the second page of the search results I found a site called “What’s My Pirate Name?” (http://www.piratequiz.com/) which purports to scientifically determine your pirate name based on your responses to twenty questions. As peculiar as it sounds, determining your company’s domain name often follows a similar process. You need to ask important questions to determine the best domain name that is right for your company. What follows are some questions and answers about domain names in general.

What Is a Domain Name?

A domain name is a unique name that identifies an Internet Protocol (IP) address on the Internet. IP addresses are numerical addresses that computers use to identify each other. IP addresses, however, are not easy for people to remember, so we use a system of domain names. These domain names help identify us in cyberspace to friends and businesses when we send email or help us find businesses on the Net when we do searches for information or buy products. In the early days of the WWW, the choice of domain name could often make or break an online business. Today, sound business and economic principles are largely responsible for the success or failure of an online business. But a good domain name can help or hinder that process.

Domain names have two essential parts: the top-level domain (TLD) and the second-level domain (SLD). The TLD is the part of the domain name that is to the right of the “.”. The most common TLD is .com. As of July 21, 2008, there were 76,392,628 .com names active. This number changes every day as new .coms are added, deleted and transferred. To see the current count to the day, check http://www.domaintools.com/internet-statistics/. This site also shows the domain count of other common generic TLDs such as .net, .org, and .info.

The SLD portion of a domain name is the part of the domain name to the left of the “.”. This is the part that you wisely choose to represent your organization or business. Anything to the left of the SLD (separated by one or more .’s) is a subdomain. The “www” used in domain names is really just a third level subdomain that is usually not a necessary part of the domain name. A domain name can have up to 127 subdomains. (Bain, 2000)

Why Is the Choice of Domain Name Important?

There are many reasons why a domain name is important. Think of your domain name as an investment. It is an essential piece of cyber real estate where the same mantra of location, location, location applies in reference to search results. You want to choose a domain name that separates you from the competition – one that sets you above the competition. For that reason, you should try your best to obtain the appropriate .com address. (I recommend the .com TLD because it is the most familiar and customers will likely check it before looking at any others.) You want to choose a name that is short, easy to remember, has few, if any, hyphens or numbers, and that best represents your organization. Typically your domain name will include your brand name.

Building brand recognition for your domain name is important. Most generic SLDs of one or two words have been taken, so you will have to be creative. Shorter domain names are easy to remember, but they may not always make sense. If numbers or hyphens are included in the domain name, then customers will have difficulty reciting the address to others. This confusion may lead customers to other sites with similar names or lose them altogether when they are unable to find your site. However, longer names do have benefits – for example, when someone knows only your company name they may type it in the address line in the form of a URL. You can have a domain name that has up to 64 characters; however, you should consider the idea that most URLs have accompanying email addresses. Long domain names mean even longer email addresses. It’s like having a long street name and has many similar cyber complications (e.g., the address may not fit in the box on a form as an email address).

How Is a Domain Name Chosen?

For the reasons listed above, choosing a domain name is somewhat of a scientific process. You have to ask the important questions. What is my company’s name? Have I sufficiently built the brand name? Can I describe it in a few short words? Can I incorporate keywords into my domain name? Has the domain name that I have chosen already been trademarked by someone in a similar business? If someone mistypes in my URL, where will it take them? I have listed several sites and tools below that may help with these types of questions.

When Should a Domain Name Be Purchased?

A domain name should be purchased sooner rather than later. Domain names are so cheap (usually $6.99 - $35.00 per year) and have so much value to your business that they should be purchased as soon as they are conceived as an idea. Buy the domain name across TLDs to protect your investment. You might even consider buying common misspellings to keep typosquatters* from taking advantage of your good name.

Where Can Domain Names Be Purchased?

Once you have decided on a domain name, you will register it with a registrar (For a complete list of accredited registrars see http://www.icann.org/registrars/accredited-list.html). A registrar has the ability to register your domain name in the global registry maintained and overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Your name will be unique and no one else in the world can register it. However, many SLDs are registered across different TLDs – i.e., economicsofsellingonline.com can only be registered to me as long as I continue to renew it; however, the only way I can prevent others from purchasing economicsofsellingonline.net or economicsofsellingonline.org, etc. is to buy them myself.

Who Can Purchase Domain Names?

TLDs are generally classified as generic or specific. Generic TLDs are unreserved meaning that anyone can register them. Current generic TLDs include: .com, .net, .info, .org, and .biz. Businesses may also buy domain names that identify them by country using ccTLDs (for example, .us, .uk, .de, .au, and so forth). Specific TLDs are reserved for specific groups or industries. Specific TLDs are just that – specific to a purpose and limited as to who can register them. Examples include: .tv (entertainment), .gov (government), .mobi (mobile phone access), .edu (education), .museum (museums), .name (personal names), .int (international organizations established by intergovernmental agreements), .coop (cooperatives), .aero (aviation), .mil (military), .travel (travel), and .jobs (job search).

At the time of this writing, however, ICANN policy for assigning domain names is undergoing a major change. I will post on this at a later time.

*typosquatters – individuals who buy common misspellings of popular domain names in order to profit from consumers who are directed there by accidently typing errors in address lines of browsers.

Other readings:

M. Brain. “How Domain Name Servers Work.” 01 April 2000. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://computer.howstuffworks.com/dns.htm> 01 June 2008

Erik J. Heels, Domain Name Law, http://www.erikjheels.com/?p=993

Mark Jackson, Search Engine Watch, Dec. 4, 2007, How to Choose the Best Domains for Search Engine Visibility, http://searchenginewatch.com/showPage.html?page=3627757

Mark Jackson, Search Engine Watch, Dec. 11, 2007, What’s in a Domain Name? Take 2 http://searchenginewatch.com/showPage.html?page=3627834

David Kesmodel. The Domain Game: How People Get Rich From Internet Domain Names, Xlibris Corporation, 2008

Nach Maravilla. What’s in a Domain Name: How Your Domain Name Can Ensure Your Online Success, http://www.powerhomebiz.com/vol34/domain.htm , PowerHomeBiz.com

Christopher Heng, Tips on Choosing a Good Domain Name, http://www.thesitewizard.com/archive/domainname.shtml

JumpLine.com, 8 Quick Tips to Choosing a Domain Name, http://www.sitepoint.com/article/tips-choosing-domain-name

12 Rules for Choosing the Right Domain Name, http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-to-choose-the-right-domain-name

http://www.webmaster-toolkit.com/

http://www.domain-generator.net/

http://www.deleteddomains.com/

http://www.dynamoo.com/webmaster/choosing_a_domain_name.htm