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Kickstart: GP on Ebley

Medical practitioners are up against a lot of competition to win the confidence of potential customers – from each other, from alternative practitioners, and yes, from the web. Our panel explores some of the online options for GP on Ebley.

Our domain name is easy to remember, but should it be more descriptive for search?

Jonathan Crossfield (Netregistry): The maximum number of characters a domain name can contain is 63. That’s before subdomains and suffixes such as .com.au gets added. You don’t want to compromise your domain name useability for the sake of something that could be made up for within the copy of your page.

Stuart Ridley (Nett): Your current website text makes it clear you’re running a medical centre. But there’s still the question of whether inserting key phrases into a domain name offers any real search benefits.

Kate Conroy (Google): If you happen to sell pet supplies, being called ‘petsupplies.com.au’ is better than ‘joesfluffythings.com.au’. ‘GP’ is a word, ‘Ebley’ is a word and they relate well back to your site. If you did change your URL, that will prompt a reassessment of your site by Google. Google will treat the new URL as an entirely new site. So, in general, I would recommend that you do not change your URL.

Jonathan: A domain name doesn’t just exist in the URL bar. It’s something you hope will be shared in a number of ways: word-of-mouth, online, on your business cards, and so on.

Kate: Small businesses only put their URL in half the places they should. It should be on business cards, invoices, shop windows, flyers, on your voicemail, uniforms, company cars… Any time somebody sees or hears your brand, your URL should be there.

How should we revise our current website to make it perform better?

Therese Walker (GP on Ebley): We have around 2,000 customers. It was quite slow at the beginning, but we’re now gaining 200-300 customers a month. By the end of the year, we hope to be up to about 5,000 customers. We’re also adding more specialists.

Stuart: Well, that’s the first part of this challenge: you need to update the profiles of the specialists.

Therese: I’m going to change the team photos, but I haven’t got good photos yet.

Stuart: You need good staff photos for marketing material. It brings the human side of the business to the forefront.

Jonathan: Bear in mind stock imagery gets so clichéd across the web. Every corporate site features similar images of the meeting room of guys in suits smiling at the camera. Every IT website seems to have the same image of a woman cheering next to a laptop. Start by making sure your file sizes are optimized: if files are larger than you need them to be, that slows things down. If the web browser has to download a 4MB image it will take longer than an image of 30KB, for example. So always make sure you’re getting the best quality image or video for the smallest size you can get away with.

I noticed you’ve got a chat function. Monitor how much bandwidth of your hosting that’s taking up. Also, if you’re going to add further resources to the site, such as a video showing the doctor talking about Swine Flu vaccination, and it becomes quite popular, you might end up with a higher bill at the end of the month because you’ve gone over the bandwidth of your hosting account.

Stuart: Good point. Isn’t hosting priced a bit like mobile phone use? Some companies offer you a set amount of bandwidth data usage and then they hammer you once you go over that. Others offer much more generous usage, allowing you to chew through lots of bonus bandwidth – within reason.

Jonathan: Some bill for every megabyte you go over your planned amount and hit you with an unexpected bill because your site was somehow successful that month. Other hosts throttle your traffic. In this case, it means your visitors experience a slower-performing site. Some companies may actually cut you off if you reach your limit, presenting your customers with an “Account Suspended” message.

And then some hosts offer close to unlimited data transfer, within certain fair use provisions.  So, for example, Netregistry has unlimited data transfer on hosting accounts. It’s load-balanced too, to make sure customer sites are always served as fast as possible to users.

So it’s worth asking your web host what happens in those scenarios in a shared hosting environment so that a) if you have a spike in traffic, your site keeps running smoothly and you know whether there is a bill attached or some other penalty, and b) what happens in a shared hosting environment if someone else has a spike in traffic. Is it liable to affect my hardware and affect my site? That’s why Netregistry has a cloud hosting environment so everyone is shared across all of the servers. If one server has a drama, you’re still being served by all the others. No one’s site can affect the performance of those around it and no single hardware failure should bring down a site. #

Want to know how well your site is performing right now? Get a free Search Engine Ranking Report from Netregistry, worth $160.

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