Blogging, Sidebars, and CTAs

Content in the form of journal writing is something we’ve all decided we need – it’s how brands tell their stories and independent writers muse about the world. But in 2016, with content being displayed nearly equally on desktop and mobile, what’s a blog supposed to look like? Here’s some thoughts on the state of blogging from someone how lives a good deal of his life writing and reading blog posts.

You can find data about sidebar usage all over the place, but my personal browsing trends indicate that 97.2% of blog sidebar information is pure noise (much like that stat). Unless it serves a very specific nav purpose, I don’t even look at sidebars. Sidebar CTA? Never clicked on one. “Featured posts?” I barely even know what that means. And the only ads I’ve ever clicked on are the ads from The Deck (seen here) because I like what they stand for.

The real knock on sidebars though is that on mobile, they either have to stack above the body content or under the body content. And if your sidebar has multiple objects, you really can’t expect a reader to scroll past all of it. You can either have a stacked nav that displays poorly on mobile or a utilitarian nav that displays poorly on desktop. Or you could just have no nav at all. That’s probably the best solution.

One column blogs are interesting beasts too though. Just do a Google search for “characters per line blog” and you’ll find not only research, but articles arguing which research is most relevant. To sum up most of it, you don’t want too many or too few characters per line, you don’t want your line lengths so long your eyes have to track lines too much, and you really shouldn’t have any more than 2-3 items under each post, like CTAs, “read next” links, and comment sections. Medium certainly isn’t perfect, especially for bloggers looking to establish a personal brand through blogging, but it checks most of the boxes for what a blog should look like (just pick any post to see the template in action). If you’re just straight blogging, that’s a template that works.

For a brand that sells a product though, the problem with big fonts and limited content density is that your blog will inherently look different than every other page on your site. You can’t sell shirts for instance with 18 pt font and large amounts of white space… unless you have a minuscule product list. I guess that’s fine, but the real dream of a blog is to seamlessly integrate it into the site. Blogs are too often visibly separate entities that are magically supposed to generate sales, but from personal use, they’re just a place I end up at through links, then leave when I’m done with the content. When the design is completely on its own, people tend to treat it that way.

To make a blog actually generate sales, it needs to look like the rest of the site, it needs custom CTAs per post that drive readers to do something very specific, and maybe some kind of interesting integration into product pages themselves. You can’t just slap a generic company CTA at the end of some random content on an obvious marketing page that looks like it on an island. It just doesn’t work.

I’ve got quite a list of things I need to do for the iwantmyname blog now. These stream-of-thought posts are quite therapeutic.

Choosing the Right TLD: Industry Specific gTLDs

It may be a shortcoming of mine, but I love when things fit into clean buckets. It pains me when content overlaps on websites, I like my socks separated by color, and I really really like the thought of an internet where sites are sorted by industry.

For example, if I know a beer brand, it’d be nice to type it in, then finish the URL with .beer. Same with .coffee, .photo, .salon, .wedding, etc. Unfortunately, what we have today is a mess. Instead of clean buckets, we have tiny variations competing for the same keywords (.photo, .photos), huge ranges in specificity (.pizza, .restaurant), and a host of super-generics that completely wreck the dream (.com, .xyz).

So in a world where a pizza place might use .com, a local ccTLD, a city gTLD, or any of the other established TLD, what’s the advantage of going with something industry specific like .pizza?

To start, the most obvious advantages are memorability and more open namespaces. In a world where most sites end in .com, and good .com domains are becoming rarer and rarer, a clean .pizza domain is much easier to remember than a .com with creative naming modifiers. What do you think is more memorable: or

But are there any non-obvious advantages? At best, maybe. Here’s the subhead for a recent post on Search Engine Land, “One lawyer discovered that migrating from a .COM to a .ATTORNEY domain can drive organic traffic and save on SEM costs.” The post seems pretty convincing in its conclusion, but Google seems to disagree (and at the end of the day, Google is what matters.) John Mueller of Google plainly states that “The TLD is not something we take into account there,” he said, and added that they “completely” ignore the words in the TLD portion of the URL.”

Could Google’s algorithm change to start boosting the relevancy of specific gTLDs? Sure, anything could happen. And it would make a lot of sense to me – if you’re looking for a pizza place, it’d make sense to assume a .pizza domain would be fairly relevant. More relevant than a .com or a ccTLD? Ehhh, I don’t know (this is why Google makes the big bucks).

No secret SEO advantage doesn’t mean these new specific TLDs are worthless though. Again, with a specific TLD and an open namespace, you have the potential to grab a memorable domain without much effort. If you find one you like, don’t be afraid to roll with it. But, in 2016, if you find an equally memorable .com (or local ccTLD if you’re a local business), you should probably go with that instead for your primary domain. It’s just the safer route based on the way things are today.



It’s been a while since I last wrote about the culture of iwantmyname and I wanted to reflect a bit on the article Chris wrote about being lonely in a remote working environment.

As we grew our team, we always looked for the best possible person and disregarded their physical location in favour of their talent. We have written about that in the past, and remote-first companies are not a new thing anymore. However, many companies in our situation are still figuring out how to make sure knowledge transfer happens in an effective, one-to-one way way, and how to make remote personal relationships work.

A while back I read The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun, and the idea of highly focussed sprints/hackathons really resonated with me. We have our yearly retreats where we get our company together at a nice spot, but I was looking for something that we could do in-between to re-factor functionality, work on passing on knowledge, and to ensure we have enough face time with team members to bond on a personal basis.

Manu and I moved to the Southern Alps a year ago, and last month Rob came to hide in our “mountain retreat” for a week of hacking on a compatibility layer for our current frontend and the new one we’ve been working on. It was a very intense week with lots of good outcomes, and it pushed me to make these hackathons a more permanent feature within iwantmyname.

Manu and I just came back from our second hackathon in Vancouver, and this time we had a tech and a support stream. Merlene joined us in Vancouver and Manu and Merlene worked on re-opening our transfer service and passing on ccTLD know how. Ley and myself hacked on a new search, some base infrastructure for elixir based RabbitMQ workers, and finally released some of the work Rob and I had worked on in our hackathon a month earlier.

Vancouver was a big success. We worked in cafes, the Aquarium, breweries, and from the beach. We banged our heads against code, celebrated success over craft beer and craft cider, and shipped a lot of useful things.

The Vancouver hackathon was also our first two-stream hackathon, and it was so successful that we already planned the next one. In early December we will have a support hackathon in Europe which will pair with a tech stream again.

We plan to get most of the support team to Munich and then on to the Austrian Alps. Dave, Nik, and myself will join in for hacking on a few new features. Working in these bursts really helps us to crack a few of the harder problems in a really effective way, and gives us a lot of energy to tidy up the features we developed in those bursts after the hackathon. The energy from those bursts carries us through the time where everyone works by themselves and the communication channels are predominantly text based.

So far I really like the hackathon format, and we will explore this further and see how we can find a good balance and mix of talents going forward. Have you experimented with hackathons in your company? Please let us know – I’d be super interested in your experience and results.

Choosing the Right TLD: City gTLDs

The .com is taken and your ccTLD isn’t quite right – what you might be looking for is a new city gTLD. There are a number to choose from now – .berlin, .london, .tokyo, .amsterdam… a ton of major cities. But is a new city TLD really a good idea?

From an SEO perspective, here’s what Google says:

A: Even if they look region-specific, we will treat them as gTLDs. This is consistent with our handling of regional TLDs like .eu and .asia. There may be exceptions at some point down the line, as we see how they’re used in practice.

Basically, you can set geotargeting in your search console, but you’re not going to get any secret SEO value from your hyper-local domain.

DNA Info does provide a bit of hope for a future SEO boost (specifically about .nyc, but applicable to all city gTLDs):

“It [Google] is trying to find the most authoritative link,” said Knorpp. As the .nyc is highly curated for only those based in New York City he said it is likely that search engines will eventually prioritize businesses with a .nyc for searches about or within New York City because of the exclusivity of .nyc.

But again, it doesn’t look like you’ll see a boost based in the short term, if ever.

Expansion is another hurdle with city gTLDs, just like ccTLDs. If you have a coffee shop in Melbourne, using the .melbourne TLD might be a good idea. But if you expand to Sydney, you’re going to have to broaden your scope. The best way to avoid this is to start with a broad TLD like .com, then use more local TLDs to personalize the experience. Or you could start with your local TLD, but hold onto the broad TLD for when you need it (just redirect the broad TLD to the local one to retain that traffic).

At the end of the day, if you have information people want, your site will get the traffic you’re looking for, regardless of the TLD, So don’t let naysayers stop you from diving into your city TLD . If you’re the authority on something in your city and have no plans to expand your reach, getting a .madrid or .miami domain could help your brand stand apart from the generic field.

Choosing the Right TLD: Local ccTLDs

If you’re not in the US, there’s a good chance your local ccTLD is nearly as popular as .com. And for a non-international business, that’s a splendid thing because any namespace has more availability that .com.

Here’s what I mean by that. Let’s say you’re starting a bakery in Wellington and want a good, memorable name. I haven’t checked them all, but my assumption is that nearly every two-word combination with the word bread in it is taken as a .com. But in the .nz space, is available… and it was the very first thing I searched for. So is,, and If you’re in the market for a bread website in NZ, your options are almost limitless.

Availability isn’t all that’s going for local ccTLDs though. Here’s an important bit from Moz:

Important in international SEO, ccTLDs are the single strongest way to show search engines and users where the site originates. This means that, all things being equal, will likely rank better in a French user’s SERP than or

In short, if your bread shop uses .nz and someone in Wellington searches for bread shops, you’re in luck. Based on your TLD, Google can assume that you’re a local business for that user, which helps them deliver your site as a search result.

Before you get too excited about local TLDs though, make sure the ccTLD you think is yours is actually yours. Here’s an example from Matt Cutts of Google:

For example, Google’s Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts talks about a business wanting to use the .li ccTLD where the .li would stand for Long Island. However, .li is the ccTLD for Liechtenstein, and the usage for that particular ccTLD is overwhelmingly sites about or targeting Liechtenstein. So using .li to stand for Long Island would be trying to change the intent of that ccTLD and would not be in the best interest of searchers and would likely not produce the best search results for a site that wants to target Long Island.

(Pro tip: Your city isn’t a country and doesn’t have its own ccTLD. There are a few new gTLDs for cities, but that’s a completely different thing.)

One thing to be aware of though when going with a ccTLD is that it might limit the use of your domain as you expand. Sure, if you’re 100% sure that your bread shop will never expand outside of New Zealand, .nz is fine. But what happens when you take a trip to Germany, want to move, but can’t get the local .de ccTLD? Sure, it’s not the end of the world, but being local means you might want to plan for the day you’re not just local anymore.

Paul on What Makes Communities Tick

Paul, doing a bit of guest blogging on Leaping Tiger:

In pre-modern society it was found that communities arose to address the basic human needs of providing sustenance, shelter, safety and social support. But in the affluent parts of a post-modern world, where these needs are largely taken care of now, what are the motivations for building a community?

Beyond mere survival, humans become motivated by more aspirational goals such as building self-esteem and the realisation of one’s full potential. In a digitally interconnected world, the capacity to identify and participate with one’s tribe is magnified enormously. Online communities not only link individuals with similar interests, but also provide the anvil upon which ideas and friendships are forged. Here are some important foundations that underpin amazing online communities.