Guidelines to Creating a Great Domain Name
Great domain names fall into two major categories. The “branded” name is related to the company’s name or main product. A “discoverable” domain name may consist of keywords or a phrase that visitors who aren’t familiar with the company or service might enter as a search term. As an example, consider a company called Streno’s that sells aftermarket automotive parts with a focus on specialty tire rims. A discoverable domain name may be “CheapRims.com.” A branded name would be “StrenosAftermarket.com.” Both of these domain names are likely to attract visitors. However, the owners of this company should consider what type of traffic they want to attract. If they’ve been in business for decades at a brick and mortar location where people are familiar with their name and product, “StrenosAftermarket.com” is a much better choice. If they are a relatively new company without a significant customer base, they may want to choose a discoverable name that incorporates the key words “rims” and “cheap.”
The Domain Might Already Be Taken
The problem with both of these names, branded and discoverable, is that a competitor or so-called “squatter” may have already taken them. Luckily, there are several websites that allow interested parties to find out whether or not a domain name is being actively used or if it has expired. “Snapnames” allows users to input a domain name and then see if they can bid on the name. A minimum bid for each domain name is listed. Depending on the desirability of the site name, the minimum bidding price can begin at several thousand dollars. “Whois” provides a list of affordable domain names that are similar to the original domain name. Whois also provides a listing of the registrar of the name and contact information where it is applicable.
While the company owners have the option of tracking down the current owner of their ideal domain name and attempting to purchase it, this usually can become very expensive or tedious. “Squatters” are people who buy a domain name specifically for the purpose of selling it at a highly inflated rate to an interested buyer. Competitors rarely want to give up an excellent domain name unless they’re going out of business or can sell the name for a large amount of money. This is where creativity and a certain Internet savvy are needed to design the perfect domain name. The best solution is to design a new domain name that conveys the nature of the company in a visually appealing way.
As the Old Saying Goes: Think Outside the Box
The domain name should be a hybrid of a recognizable word or a play on linguistics. To return to the above example, “CheapRims” is two keywords joined together. But what about the hybrid “Wheelies” or “LugNutter”? Some of the most successful websites, such as YouTube or Facebook, combine a description of the site into a catchy and visually non-threatening domain name. In some cases, making up a “nonsense” word is the best way to not only to locate an original domain name but also to create a new brand. “Google” isn’t exactly an ordinary word, but has become synonymous with search.
It’s important to realize that even “nonsense” words have certain guidelines. Nonsense words should be easy to read and avoid using too many consonants. Vowels are easier on the eye, although using too many in a row can create similar problems. Think of the names of popular websites. The most memorable have a balance of consonants and vowels and roll easily off the tongue. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Photo-sharing website “Flickr” has a pleasing sound and visual look while also functioning as a clever play on words. It also has only one vowel and five consonants.
Choosing An Appropriate TLD
ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, recently announced the formation of several hundred new TLDs specific to company brands or services. TLDs such as “.car” or “.sugar” will be available to bidders who have $185,000 for the initial application fee and another $25,000 for annual maintenance fees. For small business owners who want to have a viable presence on the Internet without spending several hundred thousand dollars on a domain name, there are far more affordable alternatives. Generic TLDs such as .net, .com, and .org can be used by anyone.
While buying a custom TLD is beyond the range of most small business owners, choosing between more traditional and affordable TLDs like “.com” and “.org” can make a huge difference in the type of traffic a website attracts. People expect a certain experience from a commercial website versus a non-profit website.
For businesses that want to make a profit, the best TLD is usually “.com.” Some businesses will choose “.org” but this can be a misleading choice. In a commercial context, “.org” looks unprofessional. Only non-profits or groups that have created a website to promote a particular cause or dispense information should use “.org.” The third unrestricted generic TLD, “.net” is a safe neutral choice, although it is not nearly as popular or well known as “.com.”
The best domain names are easy to remember. Webmasters should choose a domain name that rolls off the tongue.