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Aug 27
2009

You’re starting a website and you’re excited! You get to choose your own domain name! As the world keeps moving closer to the Internet, the value of your online marketing presence is ever growing and becoming ever necessary. You want to make it as easy as possible for prospects or leads to get to your site, and having a domain name conducive to that is important.

Especially with everyone surfing the net using their tiny mobile devices, you want to make sure your domain is simple to remember and simple to type using those tiny, sometimes virtual keys (which makes it easier to mess up)!

For illustration’s sake, let’s pretend you’re the greatest basketball player of all time – Michael Jordan.  You want to buy a domain that represents your company.

Here are some things to consider:

1) Branding

The number one search engine everyone uses is the search in their brain. If they can pull your url from memory, chances are they’d rather do that before they bookmark it or use a search engine. So we need to make it as easy for them as possible. If you’ve done a good job branding your business name, it’s a good idea to stay consistent and simply have your domain be your business name.  That’ll be your prospect’s first guess.

If that’s the case, let’s go with the most straight forward domain – michaeljordan.[something]

2) “.com” or “not.com” – that is the question…

“.com” has been the url standard since the beginning of the internet and should be your preference. Most people, whether intuitively or through experience, usually understands this and thus “yourbusiness.com” is usually their default guess. However, respectively, .com’s are the most in demand, which means the specific domain.com you’re looking for could be taken.

Challenge: A business savvy geek has bought “www.michaeljordan.com”, and is holding it for ransom! He’s demanding $100 billion for it! MJ is rich, but maybe you’re not. If you want to avoid this hefty fee, you have a couple options explained in my next points to make a unique “.com”.

In this case, if domain.com is taken, “domain.[somethingelse]” like domain.net or domain.org may be  the next best thing, but before we eliminate the “.com” option, let’s see what we can do.

3) Extra Words (watch the length!)

You do have the option of adding simple words related to your brand that hopefully don’t veer your domain name too far away from your company name. It’s best to choose words that are associated with your business or have some other logical association.

Ex. michaeljordanonline.com or michaeljordanbasketball.com.
Ex. thedarkknightmovie.com, where The Dark Knight is a movie.
Ex. theofficenbc.com where the tv show is The Office is on the tv station NBC.

Challenge: As I said in the intro, if adding words ends up making your domain hard to remember or hard to type (consider mobile virtual keyboards), this may not work.

4) Extra Characters (watch the length and the confusion!)

We can add a character to see if that gets a us a unique domain name.  The usual character to add is the hyphen. Ex. www.michael-jordan.com

One hyphen may not hurt, but you’d be surprised how much the human brain hates hyphens. No matter how sure you are or how logical it is, believe me, your mind will play tricks on you. “Wait, is it a dash or an underscore?”, “Wait, is there even a dash or underscore?”, or “Is it between ‘Michael’  and ‘Jordan’?”.   Thus, I’d avoid this and pretend the option of multiple hyphens doesn’t even exist.

What about other characters? Generally, other characters aren’t used in domain names.

What about numbers? Unless you have a number that is heavily branded, like in this case, Michael has been forever associated with “23″, or your company name has #1 or 123 or something, I probably would avoid numbers. Numbers look like an afterthought that got you the email you wanted. If your domain reminds someone of their friend spidermonkey626@mail.com, chances are it wont seem as professional.

5) Symbolic Words Representing Your Branding

If target.com was taken, theredbullseye.com may be a little far-reaching. However, for you MJ, since Nike has worked so hard to brand your symbol the “jumpman”, “jumpman.com” may work.

6) .net, .org or dot.[something else]

MJ, you’ve exausted all your “.com” options. In that case, you may want to consider having a very easy straightforward “.net”, i.e. www.michaeljordan.net.

Repeat steps 1-5 above for “.net”, and chances are you’ll find something. If in the off chance that none of the “.net’s” work for you, you have the option of choose other suffixes, such as “.org” (if you an organization), “.us”, “.info”, or international suffixes, such as “.uk” (England) and “.ca” (Canada). In my opinion though, with the exception of the international urls, “.net” is your next priority after “.com”.

In conclision, like everything else in marketing, there’s no right answer.  You have to do your best to understand your business, your market, and outweigh the above points to hopefully get you a great domain that’ll even itself be tool for conversion.

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