Colin King is 58 years old and the managing director of Jigthings Limited. He and his wife have spent their lives developing a business in the UK, supplying garden centers. Ten years ago, a large international company came along with an offer to buy the business. They jumped at the opportunity to have some financial security in their lives. Since then, they have been developing two online businesses – Jigthings and Education Quizzes.
Mike: Colin, can you give a little background on your business?
Colin: About 9 years ago we developed a range of products specifically for jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts including boards, cases, frames, tables, etc. because we recognized that there was a gap in the market for such products. At first we sold to distributors and retailers (as was our custom with the previous business) but then realized that the Internet was the ideal place to sell niche products. It was much more appealing to us to get retail margins than wholesale margins! The business is run by myself and two others. The UK site has been online for 6 years and our USA site for 3 years.
Mike: How did you choose this name, jigthings.com, and how has it impacted your business?
Colin: Our brand name is “Jigthings” and when we started our internet business here in the UK it seemed logical to trade as jigthings.com. At that time we had no idea that the name of the domain had any relevance to search engine rankings and to be honest we had never even heard of the term “Search Engine Optimization.” By the time we came to start our USA operation we had learned that a URL containing important keywords was of great help in getting up the rankings quickly. Inevitably many of the very best keywords had already be used in domains registered by other people – it would have been nice to have “puzzles.com” or “jigsaws.com” but these had already been taken. Research using the Google keywords tool suggested that the most often-searched keywords that were not already someone else’s domain name were “Puzzle Organizer” so that is what we went with. The results were astounding – we got to the number one position in the Google rankings for “Puzzle Organizer” in only a month or two whereas it has taken us much longer to get other key phrases near the top.
Mike: The UK version of the site goes by Jigthings.com. How does the traffic volume of the site compare to the US site?
Colin: We get about 50% more hits on the USA site than on the UK site although our search engine organic rankings are much better in the UK (we have been going for longer in the UK). We put this down to the fact that there are about 5 times more jigsaw-doers in the USA than there are in the UK and the competion in the USA is stronger.
Mike: I’m curious why you chose a .com for the UK site as opposed to .co.uk?
Colin: We always hoped that the business would become “International” and a .com therefore seemed the logical choice. If I were starting a business that was aimed solely at the UK then I would go for .co.uk. For a business operating solely in the USA or internationally I would go for a .com.
Mike: Is it difficult to run a business in the US from the UK?
Colin: No, it is surprisingly easy. Most of our products are made in China and they go straight from the manufacturers to our warehouse/fulfillment centre in Olean, New York. From here in the U.K. we answer e-mailed customer queries and we have a telephone line whereby US customers can telephone us but only pay domestic rates. We have a good fulfillment house in the USA and they guarantee to dispatch orders the same day provided that they receive them by 12 noon. There were some teething problems but now it is just as easy to run our USA operation as it is to run our UK one.
Mike: Do you have any other online marketing strategies that you follow?
Colin: I think that S.E.O. is king! If we were selling products in a very competitive market (like TV’s or computers) then I know it would be difficult to get to the top of the search engine rankings. As it is, we have comparatively few competitors and therefore our job is much easier. In the beginning we tried all sorts of advertising but by far the most effective for us was pay-per-click. Initially we were spending about 20% of our total turnover on pay-per-click but now that we are better known and we have good search engine rankings we spend only 4% on pay-per-click whilst our turnover is still growing strongly.
Mike: Any advice for start ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?
Colin: Unless you have a strong brand name that people will be likely to search for then go with a domain name that includes keywords that they WILL search for. I am ever more convinced that keywords within your domain name give you a fantastic boost up the search engine rankings.
Mike: Any other information you’d like to share?
Colin: When we started the business I was far too arrogant. I read that to successfully navigate your way to the top of the search engine rankings you need to research how other people use words in search phrases. I thought that I knew all about that – surely everybody thinks the same way that I do, don’t they? Evidently not, as has been learned from expensive mistakes!