Choosing a right Domain Name

When choosing a commercial property for your brick and mortar business, it’s still all about “location, location, location.” Setting up shop in the right place can make or break a small business.

What some people don’t realize, is their online website address is just as important as their real-world store location. The choice of domain name for your business website is a huge factor in findability and ease of use. Here are a few critical considerations you should take into account before you buy a website domain name:

Short is sweet. The longer and more complicated your domain name, the more likely people will get it wrong, mis type it or are just too lazy to type it in. The problem is that good, relevant short domainnames tend to be taken, but if you can get two short words or your company name, that works too. The fewer the words and syllables the better.

If you’re not using your company name (which is a very good idea for branding), make it keyword rich. Adding words and phrases that relate to your business or what you do can help you get found by prospective customers.

Skip symbols and numbers. Hyphens, underscores, and numbers just confuse people. Don’t mess with spelling either. It’s not clever; it’ll just lose you traffic. Keep it as tight to your name as possible.

Don’t purchase the first thing that pops into your head. Do some research, ask friends and family what they suggest, take some time, and think about what will work best for your business.

Choose a well known, top level domain name such as .com or for non-profits a .org. Subdomains and obscure free domains look cheap, and the tiny savings is not worth the puzzling impression it will make.

Look for and register variations of your domain. At a minimum, try for the .com version, consider having one with your country code such as .es, .de .us etc., as well as .info, .net, and .org. Remember that you can simply forward all those domains to your main websitesite too. The key is to own and be able to control your key assets.Once you have those Domain Names none of your Competitors can register them and possibly profit from YOUR Success!

Consider adding a few descriptive domains to your stable of domains. For example, if you’re registering MichaelsPlumbing.com, in Cape Town, you could add CapetownPlumbing or Plumbingcapetown to the mix, and again, just redirect them to your main domain. As well, a domain for your main product models might be valuable to have as well.

If you do find a suitable and GOOD Domain Name register it as fast as you can. Registering a domain requires a lot of thought, but it also requires action. If you wait too long, you might lose that perfect domain name to someone else, and then it can be gone for good.

Your domain really is the start point for all your digital marketing, and if you get it right, everything else will be easier. Spend some time, make an effort, and reap the benefits.

How to choose a good Domain Name.

For about 50% of the projects I take on, a domain is already part of the equation. However, in some circumstances, I’ve been called on to provide advice for naming a domain, either for a new blog, a company launch or even just a friend’s website. Below, I’ve listed 12 tips I find indispensable when helping people select a great domain name.

  1. Brainstorm 5 Top Keywords
    When you first begin your domain name search, it helps to have 5 terms or phrases in mind that best describe the domain you’re seeking. Once you have this list, you can start to pair them or add prefixes & suffixes to create good domain ideas. For example, if you’re launching a mortgage related website, you might start with words like “mortgage, finance, bond, interest rate, house payment” then play around until you can find a good match.
  2. Make the Domain Unique
    Having your website confused with a popular site already owned by someone else is a recipe for disaster. Thus, I never choose domains that are simply the plural, hyphenated or misspelled version of an already established domain.
  3. Only Choose Dot-Com Available Domains
    If you’re not concerned with type-in traffic, branding or name recognition, you don’t need to worry about this one. However, if you’re at all serious about building a successful website over the long-term, you should be worried about all of these elements, and while directing traffic to a .net or .org (as SEOmoz does) is fine, owning and 301’ing the .com is critical. With the exception of the very tech-savvy, most people who use the web still make the automatic assumption that .com is all that’s out there – don’t make the mistake of locking out or losing traffic to these folks.
  4. Make it Easy to Type
    If a domain name requires considerable attention to type correctly, due to spelling, length or the use of UN-memorable words or sounds, you’ve lost a good portion of your branding and marketing value. I’ve even heard usability folks tout the value of having the letters include easy-to-type letters (which I interpret as avoiding “q,” “z,” “x,” “c,” and “p”).
  5. Make it Easy to Remember
    Remember that word-of-mouth and SERPs dominance marketing (where your domain consistently comes up for industry-related searches) both rely on the ease with which the domain can be called to mind. You don’t want to be the company with the terrific website that no one can ever remember to tell their friends about because they can’t remember the domain name.
  6. Keep the Name as Short as Possible
    Short names are easy to type and easy to remember (the previous two rules). They also allow for more characters in the URL in the SERPs and a better fit on business cards and other offline media.
  7. Create and Fulfill Expectations
    When someone hears about your domain name for the first time, they should be able to instantly and accurately guess at the type of content that might be found there. That’s why I love domain names like Hotmail.com, CareerBuilder.com, AutoTrader.com and WebMD.com. Domains like Monster.com, Amazon.com and Zillow.com (whom I usually praise) required far more branding because of their UN-intuitive names.
  8. Avoid Copyright Infringement
    This is a mistake that isn’t made too often, but can kill a great domain and a great company when it does. To be sure you’re not infringing on anyone’s copyright with your site’s name, visit copyright.gov and search before you buy.
  9. Set Yourself Apart with a Brand
    Using a unique moniker is a great way to build additional value with your domain name. A “brand” is more than just a combination of words, which is why names like mortgageforyourhome.com or shoesandboots.com aren’t as compelling as branded names like bankrate.com or lendingtree.com. SEOmoz itself is a good example – “SEO” does a good job of explaining the industry we’re in and creating expectations, while “moz” gives a web association, and an association with being free, open, and community-driven.
  10. Reject Hyphens and Numbers
    Both hyphens and numbers make it hard to give your domain name verbally and falls down on being easy to remember or type. I’d suggest not using spelled-out or roman numerals in domains, as both can be confusing and mistaken for the other.
  11. Don’t Follow the Latest Trends
    Website names that rely on odd misspellings (like many Web 2.0 style sites), multiple hyphens (like the SEO-optimized domains of the early 2000’s), or uninspiring short adjectives (like “top…x,” “best…x,” “hot…x”) aren’t always the best choice. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but in the world of naming conventions in general, if everyone else is doing it, that doesn’t mean it’s a surefire strategy. Just look at all the people who named their businesses “AAA… x” over the last 50 years to be first in the phone book; how many Fortune 2000’s are named “AAA company?”
  12. Use an Ajax Domain Selection Tool
    Websites like Domjax make it easy to determine availability of a domain name – just remember that you don’t have to buy through these services. You can find a name you like that’s available, then go to your registrar of choice.

Guide to choosing a Domain Name

Once you have made the decision to have a website, the next step is to choose a domain name. A domain name is the address that Internet viewers use to access your website. Your domain name is your identity on the Internet and is similar to having your own phone number. Essentially, domain names serve as routing addresses on the Internet.

A domain name is an alphanumeric unique name that identifies individual computers on the Internet. For example, Google’s domain name is www.google.com. The characters that are allowed in a domain name include the 26 letters of the English alphabet, numbers 0-9, and hyphens (-). It cannot begin or end with a hyphen, but it may contain one or more hyphens. One does not actually own a domain name, but pays a domain name registrar for the right to use that domain name. Domain names have a suffix or extension, which is based on the type of organization it is associated with. Common suffixes include:

  • com – commercial businesses
  • org – nonprofit organizations
  • edu – educational institutions
  • gov – government agencies
  • mil – military

Additional domain name extensions include: .biz, .info, .name, .museum, .tv, .coop, .areo, and .pro.

Tips on Choosing a Domain Name

Research proves that the best domain names are often the simple ones – easy to remember, preferably short, and easy to spell and pronounce. When choosing a domain name, considerations include:

  1. One that is short
    • A short domain name is easier for your Internet users easy to remember, write down or to type into a web browser.
    • For example, help4parents.org is much easier to remember and is less confusing than minneapolisparentssupportgroup.org.
      Other examples of easy-to-remember domain names include: www.msn.com for Microsoft Network and www.cnn.com for Cable News Network.
  2. One that is meaningful
    • Choose a domain name that suggests the nature of your product, service or company name.
  3. One that is easy to spell and pronounce
    • Words that are commonly misspelled or that are confusing should be avoided.

Protecting Your Privacy

When a domain name is registered, your e-mail address, physical address and phone number are published on the Internet in the WhoIs database. This is a requirement of ICANN – The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN is a nonprofit body responsible for accrediting domain name registrars, requires all domain name providers to make your contact information publicly available. ICANN’s ensures predictable results from any place on the Internet are called “universal resolvability.” This is a critical design feature of the Domain Name System, one that makes the Internet the helpful, global resource that it is today. Without it, the same domain name might map to different Internet locations under different circumstances, which would only cause confusion.

This public record can be accessed by anyone 24 hours a day. Information provided includes:

  • Domain name holder’s name and address
  • Address, phone number, and e-mail address of the domain name contacts
  • Date of the domain name registration
  • Date of the most recent update to the domain name record
  • Date that the domain name registration will expire
  • Host name and IP addresses for the domain name servers

Private Domain Registration Options

Case Study: Network Solutions
Network Solutions is a domain name registrar that offers private domain name registration. This service is similar to an unpublished phone number. For an additional fee per year, Network Solutions provides alternate contact information in the public WHOIS listing for your domain name registration, which includes:

  • E-mail Address– Your newly created e-mail address changes every 10 days to protect you from people who mine the WHOIS database and sell the information. E-mail received at this address will be filtered for spam and forwarded to your designated e-mail account.
  • Postal Address– Your postal address displayed in your WHOIS listing is a PO Box address in care of Network Solutions to stop junk mail and unwanted persons from finding your home. Mail received via Certified Mail® or Express Mail™ will be forwarded to you.
  • Phone Number – Your phone number listing displayed in WHOIS will be answered by an answering service that instructs the caller how to contact you via the e-mail address and/or postal address listed in WHOIS.

Domain Name Fees

Annual fees for domain name registration range from $10.00 to $35.00 for .COM extensions depending on the company providing the services and the number of years registered at one time. Additional extension prices vary by company. Listed below are examples of domain name fees and services. Remember: These are just examples and prices may have changed or vary from company to company. It is worth shopping around.

Domain Name Registrars

Registrar Annual Fee Toll Free Support Private Registration/Fee
www.domaindiscover.com $11.98 Yes Yes / add $7.79 yr
www.godaddy.com $11.99* No Yes / add $9.99 yr
www.namesecure.com $14.95 No Yes / add $9.95 yr
www.networksolutions.com $34.99 Yes Yes / add $9.99 yr

* New .COMs $11.99 per year

How To Check If A Domain Name Is Available

Provided below is a method to check the availability of a domain name. Please provide a value for a domain name, including its extension (i.e., “.com”, etc.). Please do not include the “www”. A query on the appropriate WHOIS database will be performed. This lookup may be used on “.com”, “.net”, “.org”, and “.edu” domains. If you have any questions or if you would like help in selecting a domain name, please: contact us.

There are a wide variety of Web sites that offer services to determine if a domain name is available. For example, please go to Network Solutions at the following address and type in the domain name that you are looking for to see if it is available:

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