Your domain name is the way your potential customers and partners find you on the Internet. It is not something you can pull out of a hat, so choose it carefully.
Having your own domain name, while not required on the Internet, is one of the most essential things you can do. This includes your blog too.
First, it builds credibility: "www.customcarpentry.com" will always look better than "members.aol.com/~jim/carpentry.html", or customcarpentry.blogspot.com.
Second, it is easier for customers to find you on the web. Could you imagine giving someone on the street that AOL address? You will look second rate. Give them "customcarpentry.com" and it comes across as a professional business. Plus, it is a lot easier to remember.
Third, without your own domain name it can cause problems if you move Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as your email may not always properly forward. With your own domain name, you have an email address "for life". This is one of the hidden benefits of having your own domain.
Fourth, keep the name short. We know you can register long domain names, but don't do it. The shorter the domain the better. There is a reason why art.com and business.com have sold for millions of dollars. They are easier to remember, less prone to typing errors and easier to translate from print, telephone and radio advertisements.
I also suggest keeping the domain name as a close match with your company name. We know that many of the corporate names or abbreviations are taken, but do the best that you can, keeping in mind my guidelines.
Always use a dot-com address. There are many choices, especially the new extensions. Don't do it. Most everyone associates companies with dot-coms. Take the company I worked for back in 1999, Netgateway.net, for example. I can't tell you how many times a client asked me, "Did you get the e-mail I sent?" Come to find out they sent it to "netgateway.com" instead of "netgateway.net".
Be careful of registering a Trademarked name that you do not own. Legislation has been passed making "CyberSquating" illegal. Be ethical in your domain name registrations to avoid possible legal pitfalls. Speaking of pitfalls, there is a wide-spread issue with domain fraud online. Make sure if you are buying an existing domain, it is legit.
For most of us, the domain naming process is an exercise in frustration. With most of the good domain names already taken, finding a name that works for your company can be a tedious trial-and-error process. If you've ever spent an hour drilling through names at a registration site, like GoDaddy.com, you know how bad the process can be.
As a result, many Webmasters are happy to grab the first name that vaguely sounds like their company's name. That's too bad, because it leads to a proliferation of bad domain names.
The real value of a domain name isn't helping people find your site the first time; it's helping them find it the second time, after they forgot to bookmark it. Odds are that most visitors come to your site from another Web site, either by clicking on a banner, following a link on someone else's site, or drilling through results in a search engine. If they like your site, that's great; maybe they'll bookmark it. Then again, maybe they won't.
Lots of people bookmark sites until their list of favorites becomes a complete mess, then they stop bookmarking. To find your site again, these people have to remember how they found it the first time. In a situation like this, a good domain is worth a lot. In fact, it may be worth more than you realize. The hard part about domain name problems is that you can't tell when you have them. You can't look in your server logs and see the domain misspellings and mistakes that keep people from finding your site. As a result, it's hard to put a value on the business lost due to a bad domain name.
So what exactly is wrong with "tla-inc.com?" Well, about the only thing that's right about it is that it's available. In nearly every other way, it breaks these basic rules of a good domain name:
- Don't be cryptic. Use the name by which people know your company. That usually means don't abbreviate, unless the abbreviation is your company's trademark. Since many hi-tech companies are better known by their three-letter abbreviation, most of them are forced to register an alternate domain. That's the case with our mythical company TLA, Inc. If that's the case, it's better to register "threeletteracronym.com," instead something like "tla-inc.com," or "threeletterac.com." At least visitors have a chance of correctly guessing your domain name if it spells out the company's name. If you're not sure what people might guess, take a poll. Surveys are very powerful. Ask your co-workers what domain name they'd expect your company to have, ask your customers, ask your friends, ask everyone you can. Also, keep in mind that domain names can be 67 characters long. You should be able to get your full company's name. Typing a long domain name may seem undesirable, but if your company name requires that extra space, it's worth considering. The easiest way to follow this rule may be: consider how your domain name sounds when you have to read it over the phone to a customer. If you have to explain special characters, abbreviations, or spelling, then you've got a problem.
- Avoid dashes/hyphens. With the number of good domain names dwindling, dashes will eventually become commonplace, but at the moment they're anything but that. People still don't know that domain names can include dashes. Wal-Mart, the big American retailer, learned that lesson the hard way. The company first launched its e-commerce site as "wal-mart.com," the company's official name. They lost millions in sales before registering "walmart.com." Now both domain names take you to the same web site, the non-hyphenated version.
- Register multiple versions of your name. When you poll your customers about your domain name, don't let the majority decide your domain name. Instead, try to register every name that's mentioned. Someone, somewhere will use that name to find you. It only costs $8.95 to register a domain name, and that's not much of an expense to avoid losing a customer. If your company's name is hard to spell, register every common misspelling of its name. Unfortunately for Wal-Mart, a domain speculator had already registered "wallmart.com." Too bad, since that's the way many people spell the company's name. Register every domain people might use to find your company. That includes products and services your company offers. Then point all these domains to your home page using 301 Redirects, which is the preferred method over having your domain registrar point them. Finally, no matter what your name is or how many domains you've registered, it's a good idea to support the domain name. Reinforce it by incorporating it into your site's logo. In addition, put your domain name on all company collateral materials, like your business cards and stationary. That last part is an easy step, yet it's surprising how many companies forget to do it. In a digital age, your company's Web site is its electronic business card.
There are several ways to register a unique domain name. You can register your own domain name through www.GoDaddy.com .
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Jerry West is the Director of Internet Marketing for Web Marketing Now. He has been consulting on the web since 1996 and has assisted hundreds of companies gain an upper-hand over their competition. Visit Web Marketing Now for the latest in marketing tips that are tested and proven.
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