The Domain Game
Selecting the right domain name for your business website can be a difficult task. Following these tips can help you avoid some common pitfalls.
Choosing the best domain name for your business is not so easy that a caveman could do it, but don’t worry. Your perfect name may already be out there waiting for you—you just need to come up with it.
Best estimates put the number of domains currently in use and floating in cyberspace at about 108 million. So, does this mean you have to settle for a domain name like myrestaurantventure123.com? Not if you take the time to understand the important guidelines, carefully explore every option, and execute a little bit of creativity. Just keep in mind, the name you choose today bears long-term financial implications and may even be the difference between success and failure for some business types. No pressure.
Your journey for the perfect domain name starts with accepting two realizations. One, you may not find the perfect name—at least available—and two, you may not find the second best name. So, with that reality check in hand, it’s off to find, buy and promote the third best name for your business, which, by today’s standards, is not all that bad. For the majority of business owners, it’s really about coming up with something memorable, Web-friendly and, of course, representative of your company or product.
Beginning the Search:
The Four P’s of Preparation
What you will need: a pen, paper, patience and a PC. I would also recommend a fresh cup of coffee for what could be a time-consuming and monotonous stretch of one to two hours at a time. You can begin your search at any one of the popular domain name registration sites like Register.com or GoDaddy.com.
For more advanced search tools, and the ability to preview and purchase domain names sold directly through auction, go to tdnam.com (the official domain name aftermarket). You can initiate any search by typing in your desired name and quickly seeing if it is available. Repeat this process as necessary until you find what you want.
Choosing the Right Name
Your domain name, also known as your URL (Uniform Resource Locator), can be of any length up to 67 characters. Even though short names are generally more appealing, you don’t want to settle for an abbreviation if it ends up not reading well. For example, an obscure name like rtab.com may be short and easy to type but is not as memorable as RobsTiresAndBrakes.com.
When people think of your website, they will think of it by name. Most likely, you will be promoting your site name as much as you can—by word-of-mouth as well as on all of your marketing collateral. You want a name that resonates your brand and is ultimately easy for customers to read, speak and remember. What’s more critical is making sure it is easy to spell and not easily mistaken for another word or pronunciation. If this is unavoidable, purchase multiple versions of the name or phrase. You would be surprised how much traffic accidentally lands on Goggle.com and Gooogle.com.
If you are launching a new product or aspiring to start a business, creating a name from scratch could be equally challenging. Meet with your mastermind team to share and discuss potential names and see what sticks.
Is it easy to pronounce? What does it look like typed out? Can you say it five times fast without fumbling? Does it lend any explanation to what you do? Avoid certain letter combinations that may be difficult to read or say like stevesshoes.com or malllocations.com. Use common sense and ultimately seek names that are clever yet stand out and are easily discernible.
Experiment with attaching popular prefixes and suffixes. Start with the lowest common denominator and try adding words like: the, my, your, now, online, etc. For inspiration, go to alexa.com and look up the top 500 visited sites on the Web. Take note of any emerging trends, as the Web community quickly adopts these. Following the rise in popularity of myspace.com, there was a spike in demand for domains with “my” in the title.
One of the ways to capitalize on Internet traffic is to optimize your website using keywords. Site names that contain frequently searched words or phrases benefit the most. For instance, if your goal is to show up high in Google searches for cheap bike parts, you might try a domain name like cheapbikeparts.com. Of course, many of the more sought after names may already be taken, so you can experiment with similar phrases like affordable-bike-parts.com. While dashes don’t perform well when verbally communicating your site, they are certainly search engine friendly. As a last measure of precaution, you should check your name for possible bad associations. Look it up in the online Urban Dictionary to see if it matches anything you were unaware of. Another good source you can use to check which potential sites you may be competing with for keywords is seosmarty.com.
If you are already a well-established business with a brand you’ve spent a substantial amount of time and money on, securing your actual business name could be especially important to you. If the name you’re looking for comes up unavailable during a preliminary search, go directly to tdnam.com and see if it’s available through sale by auction or soon to expire. The rule of thumb is the catchier the name, the more you are going to pay. You won’t be alone in this adventure and it’s not limited to business owners. Every day, professional domain name squatters look for popular names or phrases and purchase solely to flip for a quick profit.
The most recent example of this practice, would be George Huger of Illuminati Karate, who after purchasing www.GeorgeWBushLibrary.com for only $10 on the day it expired, ended up selling it back a month later for $35,000 to the same Web development company who originally owned it. Apparently they had fallen asleep at the wheel and unknowingly let it expire—no doubt a costly mistake.
COM, NET, BIZ, etc?
The answer is dot-com or bust. If you are at all serious about directing traffic to your site or building a long-term strategy, you need to understand that most people who use the Web have the preconceived notion that dot-com is all there is—don’t make the mistake of missing out on this traffic.
Also, as tempting as it is, there is really no need to go on a spending spree and lock up every .org, .net, and .mobi out there for your particular domain. As lucrative as these have been for domain services, they certainly won’t be for you or your business.
Registering Your Name
Once you have a domain name selected, it’s time to register. Most sites that sell the names also provide registration and hosting. You can opt to choose a hosting service before even registering your domain as many site owners choose not to put all of their eggs in one basket and can also complicate transferring your domain at a later date. RagSelect is an online tool that allows you to compare pricing options of different domain registration companies.
For an established business owner with a branded name it may be a little more difficult when your particular name is already in use. Even if a domain name is unavailable, you can look up the “whois” information on most directories, and contact the owner of the listing to see if they’re willing to sell it. You can also type in the URL and search the site itself for contact information. A polite email directed to the site owner can never hurt.
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