"On the Internet no one knows you’re a Dog" reads the caption below a picture of a dog using a computer in the famous New Yorker cartoon. The cartoon perfectly captures what the Internet makes possible – being anybody you present yourself to be. If you want to sell anything online, whether it’s your own product, a service, or just ad space, looking professional is a must. After all, no one is going to give you a single penny if your online presence makes you appear as someone who is running a 2-bit operation and has no idea what they are doing. Follow the three steps below to greatly improve your online image.
1.) Get a Domain Name
There are few things as bad as a URL that reads something like this: http://www.geotrash.com/carpal/tunnelSyndrome/2348/ or http://members.aol.com/~username234. Sure, free hosting is great if you’re just experimenting, or if you never expect to make a single penny from your site. But, if you’re really serious about making money online, a good domain name is a must. This means avoiding acronyms. Be prepared to spend some time searching for something suitable though… even domain names like bbbbbbbbbb.com are taken. From past experience I can also tell you that registering different variations and common misspellings of your domain name is also a good investment.
A True Story: I once had a one-page write up about WebmasterBase (formely Webmaster Resources) in WINDOWS Magazine which has 850,000 subscribers. The write-up was great, and they even had a screenshot of the site. The only problem was that they published the URL as WebmasterResources.com instead of Webmaster-Resources.com. The other domain name was the home for an adult webmaster resources site. I could have registered that domain name at the time I launched the site, but I was too cheap to shell out another $70. My mistake caught up with me a few months down the road, and I ended up losing several thousand dollars worth of free advertising as a result of my stupid mistake.
2.) Don’t use free email addresses
Sure, email addresses from Yahoo and Hotmail are a great way to catch up on your email from any computer with an Internet connection. But they also give the owner a bad image on the Internet at large. If you must have an email address at one of these email services, use it only for communication with your friends, family, etc. DON’T use it to send email to companies/owners of other sites that you want to develop a relationship with, and don’t use that email address on your site.
One more thing, if you use AOL, use an alternative email address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org . Many more experienced Internet users tend to label AOL users as clueless newbies who shouldn’t be on the Internet at all. This isn’t always a fair judgement, but it does hold some validity. The large AOL user base consists largely of novice Internet and Computer users. Many of them don’t understand netiquette (ie. typing in CAPS is like yelling), and therefore they often make mistakes that make them look inexperienced to the Internet community at large.
3.) Look like you’re big
On the Internet, with a bit of time and experience, you can make your site look better than even your largest competitors. If you don’t have a lot of design skills, spending $500 to a $1000 to have an experienced designer create you a template that you can use for the entire site is an excellent idea. There’s a wealth of information, ideas, and guidelines that will help you beat the competition in the Design Articles section of this site.