When starting an e-commerce Web site or any type of business on the Internet, selecting the very best domain name can sometimes make the difference between the success or failure of the business. This task should therefore be given serious thought and not performed haphazardly.
A domain name can be made up of up to three parts. The hierarchy with a domain name moves right to left. The TLD (top level domain) is the highest level. This is the dot-com (.com), dot-net (.net), dot-org (.org), dot-info (.info) or other extension on the right side of the name. The second level domain name is the part of the domain name that people are most familiar with, and usually reflects the name of a business or an industry. The third level is the host name, which is also called a subdomain. Most often, this is the "www" part of the name, but it can be any name you wish to use, or you can choose to not use it at all. The Use of a subdomain is optional, but you decide not to use it, you should make sure that you standardize on that version of the domain. When it comes to search engines, http://domain name.com and hpttp://www.domainname.com are not interchangeable.
The rules for selecting a .com, .net or .org TLD name are pretty straight-forward. The rules for other TLDs, such as .biz, .info, or ccTLDs (country code top level domains like .us, .ca, .de, .cc, .tv) may vary. If you are interested in one of the newer TLDs or a ccTLD, you should check for specific rules with the registrars who manage those names.
Prior to 1999, a domain name was limited to 26 characters. This was extended to a total of 67 characters, which includes the "dot" and the TLD. A domain name can have any combination of the 26 English language characters, numbers 0 through 9 and the dash character. The dash can be used multiple times in a domain, but it cannot be the first or last character. Upper and lower case of the letters does not matter.
The rules for selecting a registerable domain name are the simple part. Finding a good domain name can be a daunting task, because so many domain names are held by speculators or people or organizations who plan to possibly use the name some day, or are merely trying to keep names out of the hands of their competitors.
Finding the right domain name to register
Here are the guidelines to follow:
- Reflect the name of a company, brand, industry or product the site offers
- Be easily recognizable and memorable
- Be relatively short in length
- Register the .com TLD if it is available
The first guideline is pretty straightforward. A domain name should immediately tell someone who you are, what you do or what you offer. If you only sell little green widgets, an ideal name for your Web site would be littlegreenwidgets.com. If you have a recognizable brand name, you should consider registering that name, both for your company Web site, and to keep it out of the hands of your competitors.
Make sure that the name is recognizable and memorable. It should have resonance when you say it out load. Convoluted domain names made up of unrecognizable acronyms are commonplace. These names are seldom memorable, which places the site at a distinct disadvantage. If your company is called Little Green Widgets LLC and you sell little green widgets, would it make sense to register lgwllc.com if littlegreenwidgets.com is available? Who is going to remember lgwllc.com? Not me.
Another nifty trick to add to the memorable factor is to select a name that rhymes or has a singing or bouncy quality to it when spoken out loud. Little Green Widgets has a bouncy, whimsical quality that makes it easy to remember.
Sometimes the name you want is not available. In that case, consider using a version using hyphens to separate the words, as in little-green-widgets.com. Sometimes a domain with hyphens is more recognizable, as in alpha-ebiz.com versus alphaebiz.com. In this case, if both versions of the domain name are available, it might make sense to register both versions, use one as the domain name for the site, and point the other to the same site using a 301 permanent redirect.
Guideline three just helps make a name more memorable. Although up to 67 characters can be used in a domain name, who could remember such a name and enter it correctly in a browser address window every time they want to visit a site? Simple and straightforward is a much better way to go if users are to remember a domain name and find it easily when they wish
Registering the .com TLD version makes the most sense for most Web sites, because it is the first version of a domain name most users will try when they are attempting to find a site by memory. If the dot-com version is not available, sometimes the .net or .org versions will do. Most companies register all three versions when available and they are trying to protect a brand name. If none of the three major TLDs are available, consider registering one of the newer .biz or .info TLDs, but recognize the fact that these TLDs are harder to remember, which may put your site at a disadvantage.
A method for selecting names
One method that tends to work well for finding a great domain name is to set up a brainstorming session with friends and business associates who are experienced Internet users. Describe the product or service you wish to offer and have the group start to generate appropriate and memorable names. Record all of these names and have the group stack-rank them. If you have immediate access to the Internet, check for availability at your favorite registrar.
It would not be unusual to find that the vast majority of good names are already taken. Nonetheless, finding a good domain name is a numbers game. The more good names that are generated, the greater the chances are that a real gem will emerge. It is not unusual to generate a list of four or five hundred names, with perhaps twenty to thirty really good names at the top of the list, with only one or two of these names available.
How to present a domain name to make it more recognizable and memorable
How you represent a domain to your customers and prospective customers can also make the name more memorable. Use capitalized letters to make individual words in a domain name more recognizable. LittleGreenWidgets.com is more recognizable than littlegreenwidgets.com. Alpha-eBiz.com is more recognizable than alpha-ebiz.com. The key to this is to ALWAYS use a single version of the domain every time the name is displayed. This includes the use on a Web site, on business cards, in e-mail addresses, etc.
Good luck with finding just the right name for your dream business.