By Liji Thomas
Welcome to the dotcom bubble! Here, any successful e-tailer should tell you that there’s more to a name than just the name itself. This article serves precisely that purpose –against the backdrop of quality domain naming strategies and styles, auctions, speculators and court conflicts, to convince you why your online endeavor needs that perfect domain name.
There’s no point in coming up with that absolutely fabulous idea for online selling plus a perfect site to launch from, as long as you don’t have ‘the’ name you need. Choosing a name that will eventually contribute to your brand equity, profits, internet marketing and above all -your online credibility, shouldn’t be done haphazardly. Especially, since it’s so easily purchased (for a low startup capital), easily maintained and one that, if you choose, may be disposed off at a substantial amount. Intentionally or otherwise, your domain name becomes your de facto brand name, a location or an experience your visitors relate to in the long run. Even if you plan to sell it later on to prospective buyers, it is only an asset! Your challenge is to come up with that one name to funnel visitors through.
Brandmeisters today seem to understand the significance of site names, especially since the emergence of a number of me-too sites. Like a Washington Post reporter put it – “feature for feature, service for service, discount for discount, even annoyance for annoyance”, a number of sites may turn out to be a close match to yours. Quoting Rebecca Saunders, author of the Big Shot series, “Names have to sound fresh and new even if the site duplicates one already on the net. Names should stir the imagination or otherwise gain the surfer’s attention. Further site name should be as simple as possible, they should be believable, and they should be easy to pronounce, pleasing to the ear, easy to spell and therefore easy to look up on a search engine.” Here’s more on building your handle.
The ‘aha’ name
Domain name consultants will serve you innumerable dos and don’ts on internet domain naming – a feat that could leave you grumbling with limited choices. Personally, your domain naming methodology need not be absolutely conventional, as long as your imagination is not slave to impractical logic and common sense.
Begin with a paper, pencil and loads of patience. Consider seeking the advice of kith and kin, while you scramble ideas in your brain. Follow closely on what you ought to and ought not to consider. For example, consider characteristics, features, advantages and possibly anything that relates to your products and services. Now try to come up with a domain name that either addresses that one fundamental concept of the site, or that weds two or more key concepts in a single name. All the while, keep in mind, your site’s goals, the image you wish to portray and your target audience. Don’t compromise on your image-how you want your company to be perceived and it’s relation to your core business memorability. Jot down your list of ideas. Then narrow it down to those names you think are most reflective of your products/services. Most importantly, determine if the domain name you like is available and that it doesn’t violate any existing trademarks or copyrights. The last thing you’d want is your hard thought idea of that domain name accidentally offending a fellow netizen. Make sure that it doesn’t mean something entirely different in another language and that you don’t spare chance for the public to associate anything negative with it (easier said than done!). Care for the ins and outs of classic and non classic approaches in domain naming? Read on.
Unless you are a domain name squatter or a start-up capitalizing on domain names - save those tongue-twisters, masqueraded phrases and unpronounceable names.
Your creativity levels, thought and effort should be directed towards one that’s short and sweet. Though, a long name, embedded with your major keywords, can get your site a high search engine ranking, there is no reason you should take advantage of the 67 character limit provided for domain names. Besides, you are too late now. The record of the longest domain name has been set by a Welsh village, with its registration of llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.com.
Concentrate on your visitors comfort levels. Leave them no scope for confusion and no loophole to err. Give them a name they can easily guess (without having to quip over the spelling and the location of hyphens) and hopefully, they’ll reciprocate with more clicks.
You could always rely on those prefixes (e, i, net, web, the, my) and suffixes (world, business, company, store). The power of vowels unleashed, you’d generate a potential brand name. E.g. ebay.com, ivillage.com, pcworld.com, smallbusiness.com
Lucky the business if it’s creator has that perfect proper noun to lend his site a name. Atkins.com named after Dr. Atkins and Dell.com after its founder and CEO Michael Dell. A traditional business moving online could capitalize on it’s established brand name. Even acronyms could yield quick domain names. Microsoft is an acronym for MICROcomputer SOFTware and so is Yahoo for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.
Targeting search engine rankings – e.g. Yahoo that follows alphabetic classification of websites – consider site names beginning with the digit 1 or the letter ‘a’. Jeff Bezos, the creator of Amazon.com, cites this as one of his reasons for the name’s choice.
But for those of you driven by the age old myth – that search engines have a liking for words that are separated by dashes- wake up! Today, when search engines focus on the site content, hyphenated names have no influence. Domain names with or without hyphens is in itself a topic for a forum. A good idea is to register both options if possible and redirect visitors to one site. Walmart.com never let go off it’s original registration (wal-mart.com), even after it changed name. Now both names take you to the same site.
Think of it on a broader angle. A few dollars spend to secure all possible variants of your name (with alternate extensions) will secure your visitors, otherwise likely to contribute to competitor site traffic. More - register possible names your visitors are likely to associate to your domain. The retailer Buy.com registered the domains: "10percentoffamazon.com," "10percentoffreel.com," and "10percentoffegghead.com”. Proctor & Gamble is an extreme case of this blanket approach. It registered hundreds of generic domain names relating to all aspects of personal hygiene and healthcare: pimples.com, badbreath.com, underarm.com, diarrhea.com etc. They advertise only one, but use the others to bring traffic, and point all the domain names to one site.
Though generic names can’t be trademarked, are sources of controversy and usually unavailable (if not, costly), your prospective domain name could sound of the genre of women.com, Hotels.com, Furniture.com, Art.com and shoes.com. Nonetheless, the loss of uniqueness in generic names is a serious reason for their unpopularity among namers. Now guess why Amazon was’nt named book.com and ebay not auction.com.
So, if the dictionary lets you down, do not fret to think of words that are arbitrary, previously unheard of and totally unrelated. Yahoo, Google and BlueTooth.com don’t owe their origins to the thesaurus. Sometimes it pays to be whimsy!
In just around 2 years, the number of website names registered has grown from 200 to a voluminous 125,000 per month. And as yet, already over 1.6 million domains have been registered, including the subtitle above! Chances of you finding a 3 character .com domain name unregistered (not on sale!), are thin… very thin.
Here’s the good news. Everyday, around 20,000 domain names expire and get deleted. In addition to the generic domain extensions such as .com, .net, etc. there are approximately 250 different international domains each with their own two-letter country code extension. Speculations of new TLD (Top Level Domain) names include .firm, .store, .arts, .info, .nom, .biz, .pro, .aero, .coop, .museum and .name.
So, don't settle for the first domain name you think of! Although the supply of domain names is diminishing daily, it's better to expend more thought at the beginning and save money later. Don’t let the gold rush skate your decision (and later leave you to regret over an unmarketable name). Then again, don’t sit just hatching ideas. Even as you read this, someone halfway across the globe might be beating you to your choice!
Some are just registered by entrepreneurial opportunists hoping to make a fast buck by selling it on. If your choice is taken, the easiest, cheapest and most reliable solution would be to register another name. Did you know that the auction site eBay.com was the second choice of it’s creator after his initial pick EchoBay.com was taken? A good name is a legal name!
Nonetheless, if you own a successful site, that just can’t do without that colonized ideal name, you better ensure your pockets are deep because the owner at the other end knows that there’s nothing quite like the commercial value of a domain name. The highest publicly known sale of domain name was the sale of Business.com for $7,500,000 to eCompanies, a business incubator.
Domain names have been turned into a marketing bargain with its parking capability. A business can register or buy a name for later use. And there are sites that do nothing but park potential names mostly sold for fire-sale prices later on! A Belgian doctor,
Dr. Lieven P. Van Neste owns well over 200,000 domain names
It’s a fine pursuit, if you care to keep your distance from brand infringement. In the past, speculators have faced legal charges on trademark violations from the bigwigs (including Microsoft) for having registered microsoftwindows.com, microsoftoffice.com, AirborneExpress.com, CitibankMasterCard.com, HewlettPackardss.com, and Wall-Mart.com. Domain name conflicts that grabbed headlines - Yahoo vs. "yahooka.com" (a marijuana site), Nissan Motors vs. Nissan Computer Corporation. One that caught my personal appeal - Archie Comics company’s trademark driven domain dispute with Veronica.org, a website set up by a loving dad in honor of his 2-year-old daughter Veronica!
From McDonalds to MTV, a lot of press on online brand infringement ( the hijack of popular brand names) has filled the air. Even as I write this, Google Inc. is being challenged the right to use the name "Froogle" for its online shopping service (a New York based carpenter owns Froogles.com - web shopping site).
Your domain name is more than a ubiquity. You have no other billboard or bypass to your site. Statistics prove that direct navigation or guessed URLs account for majority of the traffic to a site (64.43%), much more than the search engines can bring (35.55%). Eat, drink and sleep on your idea before you move to register that killer name. Don’t hassle, thinking there are nodomainnamesleft.com (that’s taken too!). Your share of homework should save you a lot of misery down the road.
Besides, if you can’t trademark your design scheme, product idea and marketing strategy, here’s something you can. Your domain name is perhaps the only thing that you can own on the Internet. Remember, there’s always more to a name than just the name itself! Happy naming!