Choosing a Domain Name

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SpeedoFartWhat’s in a name? There are more theories on this topic than the origin of Tom Cruise’s kids. Unfortunately, Tom dedicated more time to naming his kids than most people do to their domain name. (‘Suri’ is a South American Alpaca and in Swahili it means ‘my dad’s a nut-bag cult follower’.) What seems like a good idea at the time can, and most probably will backfire.

Exhibit A: the ‘Speed of Art’ web site www.speedofart.com (Well, you could always blame the budgie you were smuggling.)

There are a few basic rules when buying domains:

  • keep it short
  • make it easy to spell
  • make it easy to remember
  • make it readable by search engines.

Let’s answer some common questions regarding these four basic rules.

Should we use our company name?

What if it’s not available?

Should we go for something generic?

Do acronyms work?

Dot com (.com) or dot com dot au (.com.au) and what the hell is dot org (.org) anyway?

Let’s use an example of an actual business that has one of the greatest names ever – Cheap But Good Cars. Not only is it screaming out for a comma (apparently these were abolished in the 1980s along with apostrophes and capitals), but also it instills trust like an over-enthusiastic vicar after choir practice.

Anyhoo … ‘Cheap But Good Cars’ it is.

Should we use our company name?

In this case www.cheapbutgoodcars.com works well. It’s not very short, but it conforms with all the other rules. Using your company name is a good idea if it is as memorable as this one. four short words that are easy to remember, unless you get confused and type www.goodbutcheapcars.com or www.dsgrguhos;avaerv.com if you have hooks for hands.

On the other hand, if your business was called ‘We apologise for the inconvenience, Cars’, I would go for something simpler. Your clients are going to be in a fantastic mood by the time they spell complaints@weapologisefortheinconveniencecars.com and fumble with the pesky spelling issues like one p or two, s or z, and i before e. Not to mention concentrating for what seems like an eternity in this two-minute-noodle kind of world.

Search engines will love cheapbutgoodcars.com because it contains the terms ‘cheap cars’ and ‘good cars’. Both are very popular search terms and will boost the site’s natural ranking, provided it is supported by relevant content.

Another risk with being obsessed with your business name is you may fall prey to the same tragic affliction that the Pipe family did when they named their son Dwayne.

Tip: Show a few friends your name before you register your domain or you may be in the same predicament as the Mole Station Native Nursery. www.molestationnursery.com (Site has now been moved)

What if it’s not available?

The most common reaction to finding out that you are not the first person to have the brilliant idea of selling dodgy cars is to stick with your company name, but hyphenate it; e.g. www.cheap-but-good-cars.com (somehow hyphens were spared in The Great Punctuation Genocide of the 1980s). This can work if it’s kept simple, but generally hyphens are not easy to remember because you always have to spell it out to people and it makes an already long name even longer. However, they do work well with search engines.

What about something generic?

When you finally calm down after realising someone already owns your perfect domain name, it’s time to start searching for some other ideas.

An effective method for choosing a domain name is to go for something generic. In our used car salesman’s case it would be something like www.usedcars.com or www.used-cars.com. These domains get great search engine results because they are extremely popular search terms, but there is little chance of them being available. They would also be worth a lot of money.

Insignificant fact: In 2006 the domain www.mortage.com sold for $242,000 and it’s not even spelt correctly!

A cheaper idea is to tie your location into the name. As our car dealer only operates in Brisbane he may find that www.usedcarsbrisbane.com.au is available. Again, search engines are going to love this.

Trademarked or famous company names. Don’t try to be smart and register a massive global company’s name and think they are going to pay you for the rights to use it. Their lawyers will beat it out of you and you’ll have to get a second job to pay the court fees. Big companies have invested a lot of time and effort in their brand and are not going to take kindly to some little smartarse trying to bleed them dry.

In my experience, generic domains work extremely well in conjunction with your business name. Buy both. They only cost about $40 a year. It’s cheap marketing and it doubles the width of your online marketing funnel. Also, it is useful when you have a business name like KND.

Do acronyms work?

Yes and no. Example: www.goodbutcheapcars.com = www.cbgc.com

Is it short? Yep.

Easy to spell? Presumably.

Easy to remember? Possibly, if you can distinguish it from all the other acronyms like DKM, KPMG, KGB, WTF?

Readable by search engines? Not a chance. Search engines speak English (or similar), not corporate gibberish. What if you don’t know who you are searching for? What if you don’t know, heaven forbid, if Cheap But Good Cars even exists? What if you don’t care? You just want a cheap but, of course, good car.

As someone wise once said only moments ago, if you are cursed by a forgettable acronym, try registering a more generic name to capture traffic that doesn’t know you exist yet. Start by researching Google to find out what your customers are searching for. Use some of the research links at SEO Tools (http://www.seochat.com/seo-tools). They are better than most of the SEO tools I’ve met.

Dot com? Dot com dot au? Dot org?

In the beginning there was just dot com (and monkey magic). Now there are domain suffixes for each country and a few extras thrown in. Dot info is used for personal sites and blogs, .biz and .net are alternatives to .com, and .org is reserved for not-for-profit organisations.

Our used car salesman only sells cars in Australia so it would make sense for him to register his domain as a .com.au. It’s then obvious he is an Australian business, which makes it easier for unsuspecting suckers to find him on the Web among all the other dodgy used car dealers. The .com suffix would attract too much unwanted American traffic and should be used for American or global companies. Incidentally, anyone can register a .com but you must have an ABN to register an Australian domain.

Helpful hints

Buy your own domain. Don’t let your web guy register it or they will own your name and may not want to give it back when you want to move on to a better web developer (www.knd.com.au)

Use a local registrar. You will find very cheap domains on some international web sites but the service you don’t get when you need it will reflect the price you pay. Although, if you are shopping for cheap, but good cars, then perhaps cheap, but good domains will suffice.

All you need to know about naming domains

So remember,

Keep it short

Easy to spell

Easy to remember

Search engine friendly.

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