The Essential Guide to Selecting a Domain Name

by Devanshu Mehta

In a time when a domain name is registered every two seconds, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find that perfect domain name for your cause. In such a situation, it has become necessary to devise a method to determine the best domain name for you.

Unfortunately, there is no straightforward method for this purpose. The best we can do is to try to achieve a balance between the different expectations and objectives you have about your domain name.

Objectives

Objectives behind needing a domain name and expectations from it vary in different degrees from person to person. The important thing is that you have your objective perfectly clear in your mind. Without a clear purpose, you may end up with a domain name that can actually hurt your business instead of helping it. If you rush in, you may end up with the domain name good-dealz4u.net instead of ValueShopping.com when both were available. Be careful.

The question you have to ask yourself is, what are you trying to achieve with this domain name? Is it to develop a long-term online brand, is it supplementing an offline brand, is it to work towards short-term building of traffic or is it the best balance between all of these?

It is understandable to have more than one objective regarding the use of your domain name. For example you may want your domain name to work as a ”traffic catcher” and also as an online brand. It is usually acceptable to have more than one objective, provided you understand them both entirely, clearly and separately. Yet, it is difficult to achieve all your objectives with one domain name. If in the course of your search, you find the perfect balance, then consider yourself lucky. If not, then keep each objective separate and work with them individually. It is better to have two domain names pointing at the same site, than to have one that does more to confuse a visitor than enlighten him.

Your Domain Name as a Brand

In essence, a domain name is an Internet address. The only technical purpose it serves is to locate a computer on the Internet. Yet, taking a broader perspective, a good domain name serves not only as a piece in a technical puzzle but more importantly, as your identity, brand and personality online.

People may come across your domain name from an advertisement, through search engines or through word of mouth. In any case, your domain name will work towards forming an impression about your online presence. A good domain name will usually form a good first impression in a person”s mind, but a bad domain name will always form a bad one.

People are impressed more easily through value rather than products; characteristics rather than facts. It is important to have a name that conveys what you do best, instead of just conveying what you do. In short, GreatBooks.com works better than WeSellBooks.com, and the reason is obvious.

Your Domain Name as a Handle

As I stated above, people encounter domain names in a variety of places, many of which will not provide one with immediate Internet access. This requires a domain name to not only generate interest in people, but also stay with them until they get the opportunity to use the Internet. Most good domain names are eye-catchers, which means that it does not take more than a glance from a potential visitor for it to stick in their minds.

Another important thing to understand is the working of search engines and their users. Search engines are more likely to list your domain name in search results if the name contains common search keywords for the area of interest your site belongs to. This means that domain names such as CarsForLess.com and MoviePictures.com will do quite well in search results for their respective areas of interest.

On a similar note, the behavior of search engine users must also be taken into consideration. Consider an average user of the Internet, who after a brief search has come across two auction sites: joebob.com and another one called AuctionsOnline.com. Unless joebob.com came through with a terrific branding effort, the obvious choice would be AuctionsOnline.com.

On the other hand, had the option been eBay.com instead of joebob.com, our random surfer would have chosen eBay. Obvioulsy, the power of branding is greater than all others, provided you are willing to spend a great amount of time, effort and money behind it. Hence in the battle of the domain names, AuctionsOnline would win on the counts of its job as a handle and as an eye-catcher. EBay.com would win simply on the count of branding. Your decision lies in the balance between them.

Credibility

It is easy to lose credibility in the search for the perfect handle or eye-catcher. That is why it is important for you to recognize the long-term importance of your domain name. Your domain name may seem to work great as a ”traffic catcher” but may spoil your chance of ever becoming a trusted entity online. This is especially true for sites that hope to venture into e-commerce, where trust is more important than anything else. A bad domain name, in this case, would be one that gives more emphasis to price over value, to building traffic over building trust, to the short-term over the long-term.

Keep it Simple

Though this rule may seem the most obvious of the lot, it is surprisingly also the most neglected one as well. The rule is that regardless of how a person came across your domain name, when he or she sits in front of a computer and wishes to type the domain name into the browser, it should not be forgotten or misspelled.

So here are a few things to keep in mind about the actual naming of the domain:

– The words in the name should be simple. No confusing spellings. You do not want to lose a customer just because they could not spell the name of your site.

– The name should preferably contain no hyphens. There are exceptions to this, but the best practice is to avoid them. This is because many of your potential visitors will have either only heard of or read about your site. If they forget the hyphen, you might end up sending them to a competitor.

– A lot of people will be coming to the site through word of mouth. For this purpose, a domain name should be such that the spelling and structure of the name are obvious. If you hear the name Books-4-Free.com you are more likely to end up at BooksForFree.com.

– Domain names are not case-sensitive. This means that ValueAuctions.com is the same as valueauctions.com. Someone reading the name of your site may get lost within the vowels trying to decipher the name. Beware.

Till ICANN comes through with new TLD options, always try for a .com extension to your domain name first, unless of course, you actually qualify for a .org. The .net extension is fine if you already own the .com version of it. If you own only BooksOnline.net you may be in for trouble from two directions. First, your visitors may forget the extension and go to BooksOnline.com. The other more dangerous thing that could follow from this is that you might actually have competition at BooksOnline.com who is receiving traffic you deserve. If your business or organization is based outside the US, you may want to go for a country code extension (for example, .co.uk if you are based in the UK).

“Are all good domain names taken?”

However much resellers and auction sites will try to convince you to the contrary, all the good domain names are not taken. With ICANN deciding to release new options for alternatives to the .com, there is very little need to worry. All it takes is a good imagination, a very clear objective and good amount of time to find the right domain for you.

This article originally appeared in a now defunct web site called DomainNotes.com, a part of the Internet.com network. It still lives on another Internet.com website, called “ecommerce-guide.com”:http://www.ecommerce-guide.com/solutions/building/article.php/510981 but I am reprinting it here so that it lives on if more of their web sites die. It originally appeared on the 14th of November, 2000 but still largely valid.)

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