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Choosing Domain Names

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Once upon a time, domain names were thought to be the equivalent of coastal real estate.  If you got out there and made a claim, sooner or later it would become valuable.  Businesses would have to buy you out.  By the beginning of this century, every natural word in the English language had been bought.  People bought up names of businesses, as well as general words.  Entrepreneurs tried to popularize alternate versions to bring value to their storehouses of odd domain names.  This included the awkward a-[word] as well as the somewhat infamous .tv extension.

Those who bought the right words and sold them at the right time did make a small pile of cash.  Many were stuck when courts ruled they couldn’t claim trademarked names solely to sell these back to the businesses that owned them.

More importantly, several factors have lessened the value of the domain name.  First, the addition of a variety of top-level extensions lessened the unique value of a domain.  Can’t find  True instead.  Also, the length of domain names continued to grow.  If someone sees your store, runs out and buys up, .us., .net, and whatever else, you can still add a word to the end.  Try  Or  There is almost always something available.

Finally, search engines have become the starting point for most internet surfing.  If someone types in Yourname into Google, the domain name is only a small part of getting your site onto the results page.  If Yourname is well known, and your website has content, page titles, and header tags that reflect that, people should be able to find you.  If your site is not optimized, having Yourname as the domain won’t help very much.

So domain names are not as important as we once thought.  However, choosing one should still be done thoughtfully.  Your domain name probably will be read by searchers, and search engines do look at the words when deciding how to rank your page for relevant search phrases.

There has been a lot of debate about whether you should stuff a domain name with keywords.  There is some search engine benefit for adding keywords to a domain name, but not a lot.  Always remember the domain name is also part of your branding.  If it’s natural to add a word, say health or fitness to the end of your company name, then do so.  If it comes out awkward, then you may look cheap and desperate.  The same also applies to adding numbers or A to the beginning of the name, in a bid to be listed first on alphabetic lists.  It’s an obvious ploy, and only helps your visibility in a small subset of the search world.  Still, if your business isn’t concerned with appearances, by all means add some ones to the front.

The place to start is usually the name of your business.  You probably spent a lot of time thinking that out.  It conveys the impression you want it to.  Normally it fits into your field, while setting you just a little apart.  Using the business name as your domain name reinforces branding right away.  It also provides the same benefits online that your business name gives you in the real world.

Another option is to use the name of the major service you offer.  Either alone, or with your business name.  For instance: or  If you find that, by itself, is available, take it.  However, if the service is just part of your offering, using it in your domain name may eliminate you in the minds of many web surfers.  If they are looking for commercial printing, and see, they will probably move on to the next listing without even clicking on your entry.

In this day of longer names, you could also use a tagline, or even your Unique Service Proposition. might work well, and it covers all the bases.  Once again, though, you should look to the standards of professionalism in your industry. might not give a professional atmosphere for a lawfirm.

Finally, you should not let this stall out your project.  A good website is as key as a having a brick and mortar location.  Possibly moreso.  If you have a business name, use it.  Don’t form committees and hire consultants and do a lot of extra research just to find the perfect domain name.  You can use all those resources making a better website and marketing it to people.

Additional material: Trademark issues may arise if you are using names or service descriptions you haven’t already researched as part of creating your business.  The following resources will help: