The Modern Dog Trainer blog contributors invite the expert website designer and dog trainer, Alice Tong, CPDT, KPA CTP, CSAT, to discuss tips for designing your dog training website and even how to be prepared to work with a website designer if you choose to hire someone.
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Episode 2 – Designing Your Dog Training Website – Podcast Show Notes
About Alice Tong, CPDT, KPA CTP, CSAT – Training & Website Design
Alice creates websites for a variety of industries, but she specializes in websites for dog trainers, dog walkers, therapists and other service providers who support using positive reinforcement and humane science-based methods with dogs and people. Being a positive reinforcement dog trainer and therapist herself, she has a thorough understanding of the services and clientele in our industry, and an immense passion for helping people and dogs. By supporting you and your website to shine, Alice hopes more people and dogs will have the opportunity to experience the effectiveness and joy that can come from using positive reinforcement and humane science-based treatment methods.
About the Hosts
Links mentioned in the show:
Photos (Pro-Tip: Always credit the photographer.)
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Coming up with names for any business can be rather fun. For dog trainers, we tend to think of cute names that may draw clients into training that sounds happy and joyful. Fun aside, naming your business has important difficulties as well as benefits if you plan ahead.
The big problem with business names.
The biggest problem you’re going to have in naming your business is finding one that isn’t already taken. The second biggest problem is going to be finding a name that is available as a web address for your website as well as any social channels you want to use to market and promote your business.
Twitter sets a 15 character limit on usernames, or the @ name. If your business name is Dogs Rock Awesome Dog Training, you’re going to have some problems getting that down to a memorable 15 character name. While Facebook’s limit is 70 characters for Page names, people are using mobile apps more often, so the longer name may prevent them from searching for you.
In a perfect world your business name will be available as a web address domain, Facebook Page, and usernames on Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram at the least. Branding across platforms is important. While we can provide links from the domain to Youtube or from Youtube to Twitter, people need to find you first to click the link. You want to be findable without people having to visit one of your channels first.
Do you really need a business name?
Technically, you already have a business name. Your personal name is your business until you register a Doing Business As (DBA) with your county licensing office as a front for your personal name. Is there anything wrong with John Smith Dog Training? Absolutely not. You are the face for your brand. You’re doing the training. You might as well be transparent about it and use your name.
- The web address is probably available for either just your name or with the service: JohnSmith.com or JohnSmithDogTraining.com.
- Once people meet you your name is easy to remember.
- Your name travels with you, so should you move you won’t have to rebrand.
- Your name can change services, so if you add boarding services later you don’t have to worry about changing the web address to reflect that.
- No one knows who you are, so marketing can be difficult.
- JohnSmith.com could be any service. Without keywords in the domain name you have to really use your web content to get on the front page of Google searches.
- If you grow to the point you hire employees clients may be confused when John Smith doesn’t show up at their door to train their dog.
Location as your business name.
When people go searching the internet for a dog trainer the most common search is My City Dog Training. While using your city and Dog Training sounds boring, it really will move you to the front page of Google pretty quickly. If your goal is to get up and running quickly and you don’t care about creative names, this is the fastest route.
- More likely to get on the front page of Google.
- You can hire any employees without creating confusion.
- Social channels will probably be available if the domain is available.
- If you live in a common city name like Springfield, your name may already be taken by a busniess in another state.
- Moving becomes a problem. While you can forward MyCityDogTraining.com to MyNewCityDogTraining.com, you’re still basically starting over with a brand new business.
Creating a name.
When I was thinking of business names I spent a lot of time searching the internet for naming “rules.” One of the most helpful pieces of advice I found was to create a name that didn’t require you to spell it when said out loud. The concept is, if you’re at a networking event, noisy conference, or hanging out in a bar, you should be able to say your business name and have it understood.
The out loud rule is very difficult for dog trainers. Domain names may be available using “K9” instead of “canine,” or “dawg,” instead of “dog,” but those names will require a whole lot of explanation and spelling if you’re passing your name verbally. Is it possible to market and succeed with words shortened and misspelled? Yes, but it will probably take more time and you’d need to make sure you have business cards on you at all times.
Ebay and Google are names that had no meaning before they started. You can let your creative juices flow and just create a name. OgDay? Doggle? Making up words can be fun, just remember that marketing and focused keywords on your website are going to be very important. Also, watch out for bad words or alternative meanings in the middle of made up words. Sinep might sound snappy, but read it backwards.
Putting two or more words together to make one shorter word can help with the character limits on social media channels. An example might be taking the first few letters of Reward Based Training, and creating RewBa Train. Rewba.com and RewBaTrain.com are available, and social channels probably would be. While marketing and branding will still be important, if you do it right this kind of name can be memorable more quickly than a completely new made up word.
If you keep entering domains into a domain search and they’re taken, it may be time to get some help. There are hundreds of business name generators online that can spark ideas and will check domain availability at the same time.
NameMesh will take your keywords and make new words, find synonyms, and give you “new” domain options. New domain options have different endings to .com and are geared toward defining your business. For instance, you can now get .training or .photography. Some fun options might be dog.ninja or canine.guide. Existing domains have first option for the new domain, so if you own dogtraining.com you have the first option to buy dog.training. Competition is still high for the new domains as people buy them for investments instead of use, but using them allows you more options.
Panabee is another name generator that merges words and concepts pretty effectively. Enter a few words and you’ll get quite a few options. Panabee doesn’t include the new domain endings, so use this if you want to stick with a .com, .net, and .org.
If your all time perfect domain name is taken, visit the site and see what’s there. If you see a splash page from a host like GoDaddy, at the top you will see, “Welcome to: (domain name,) This Web page is parked for FREE, courtesy of GoDaddy.com. This usually means someone is sitting on the domain as an investment. Domain name buying for resale to someone who really wants it isn’t as popular as it once was, but it’s still done. If you really, really want it, go to the webhost (GoDaddy in the example above,) and put in the domain name in the domain search. You will get a result page that says the domain is taken, but in tiny text next to that is, “ Still want it? Here’s what to do.” Follow the link and you’ll get a page offering to contact the owner for you to see if they’ll sell. Expect to pay big. Premium domains run between $500 and $2500 on average.
While it may not be that big of a deal for your business name to be close to another business in another state, you want to be sure you’re not stepping on any toes in your home market. Search for your city and “dog training,” for your area and see what businesses are on the first three pages of Google. It’s also a good time to see who your main competition is and how they’re using they’re keywords and name and branding. If your main competition uses K9, you might want to stay away from any name using that shortcut.
Just because a domain is available does not mean it’s not trademarked. You can do a quick trademark search at the U.S. Patent Office’s Trademark Electronic Search System. The last thing you want is to spend money and time on building brand name recognition only to receive a cease and desist letter.
Did we miss an idea? How did you come up with your business name? Leave us a comment!
You’ve realized your website needs an upgrade and have decided to use WordPress to build it. One of the cool things about WordPress is you get to start with a template. Templates are basically a design framework that allow you to plug your own photos and text into and you end up with a snazzy site. Some templates come with plugins built in and some templates integrate with plugins better than others. Before purchasing a template, make sure it’s going to integrate with what you want to do.
We’ve put together the best options for paid and free templates. Why pay for a template? The paid options below come with technical support. If you’re new to WordPress and aren’t quite sure you can get started alone, paid options with support are a nice medium between full DIY and paying someone to build a site for you.
Our Favorite WordPress Themes for Dog Trainers
Image via Organized Themes
Organized Themes has a full range of templates available for your site. While some of them are designs for restaurants or stores with huge photos to showcase products, templates designed for non-profits are awesome, especially if you are a non-profit. Rescue organizations and humane societies can use the “Donate Now” button on the front page for fundraising efforts. If you’re not a non-profit, use the large action button for “Register today!”
All Non-Profit Themes, but we specifically like the Forward theme.
Support is delivered by a growing Knowledge Base and Support Forums. All questions in the forums are answered by the developer himself. Since he doesn’t have a full support team, customer support does have specific hours: Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 5 pm, Central Standard Time GMT -5.
Pricing for these templates are based on either a single theme or period of access to all themes. A single theme with lifetime support and no monthly fee is $59. If you want to try out a bunch of themes before you settle on one, choose the 6 month membership for $89. This gives you access to all the templates as well as support for 6 months. If you don’t need support after the 6 months is up no further payment is needed.
Image via Elegant Themes
Elegant Themes has 87 templates, which can make decisions difficult! Since Google now drops your search placement if your website is not Mobile friendly, stick to browsing the Responsive templates. We like the clean look of the Trim template. Remember, if the template has huge photos you will need to fill those spaces with your own graphics. For many of trainers that could be a problem.
Support is delivered by Documentation, step by step guide for template installation, and Support Forums. All questions in the forums are answered by Elegant technical support.
Pricing is an annual membership fee that gives you access to all 87 templates. The best option is $69 for a year. Once you’re all set up you can cancel your subscription and keep your final website for life.
Image via WordPress
If you’re ready to go full DIY, you can download the free version of Cuztomizr, or get the Pro version, which includes access to Premium Support.
Customizr lives up to its name. It’s fully customizable with the Live Preview option, so you see your changes “live,” but unpublished. Checkboxes toggle front page items on and off, the color picker means you get to choose the exact color you want, and you get to use your own logo. This template supports most plugins and is fully responsive for mobile users.
Free Support is available through the official WordPress Customizer forum. Questions will be answered by either SuperUsers or the developer, but Super Users are more common. Start with the Documentation, some of your questions may be answered there. Paid Support is available from the developer though a Support Forum using an activation key. Questions are answered by “WordPress Experts,” which means carefully chosen Super Users and not necessarily the developer. Paid support is $44.95 per year.
Image via WordPress
i-transform is template with smaller spaces for photos, which means you don’t need to come up with huge, splashy graphics on the home page. It’s Mobile friendly and comes with a toolkit plugin for customization. While the finished theme looks awesome, this is very much a DIY project that will require you to read the documentation on the theme and the toolkit plugin that comes bundled with it to make the initial setup easier.
Free Support is available through the official WordPress i-transform forum. Questions will be answered by either SuperUsers or the developer, but Super Users are more common. Start with the i-transform Tutorial available from the developer. Some of your questions may be answered there.
Image via WordPress
Hueman is one of the more complicated templates due to the variability of sliding menus, headers and footers, and widgets. If you offer a lot of services, have multiple locations, or a lot of staff, utilize the three column front page so visitors can find what they need easily. This template is a very difficult DIY project, so you’ll need familiarity with WordPress and templates and some coding.
Free Support is available through the developer’s Documentation, and the official WordPress Hueman forum. Questions will be answered by either SuperUsers or the developer, but Super Users are more common.
Recommended Article: 5 Must Have WordPress Plugins for Dog Trainers Websites
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