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How to Choose the Right Domain Name

What's in a name? Everything! A domain name is the first thing that pops up when people are exploring through a search engine or directory, so it's important to come up with something clever that also spotlights the focal point of your business. By "clever," we don't mean a silly pun that will cause your face to turn red with embarrassment in a year or two after the novelty has worn off. Your domain name will be your "Internet identity," so it will be helpful if it closely matches the name of your business, product, or service to make it easier for people to remember and find you; thereby distinguishing you as leader in the marketplace or business.

Every time you send out an email you will be promoting your business because your domain name will also be used as your email address, thus making it easier for customers to remember you by. Plus, when you're sending out emails to someone who isn't familiar with your business, they may intrigued enough to take a closer look at the website, especially if the name is catchy and interesting.

An additional marketing strategy will be to print your website on everything related to your business - stationery, business cards, mailers, advertisements, signs, etc. So the idea is to come up with a domain name that has obvious business and/or commercial potential.

How Do I Choose My Domain Name?

Ah! Good question and we're glad to provide that answer for you. It's going to require a little brainstorming, but you may be pleasantly surprised with some of the ideas you come up with.

Ask co-workers, friends and associates, as well as family members, to jot down names and words they think best describes your business. Browse through circulars and look at classifieds and magazine ads to see what headlines grab your attention.

You can even use your own name for your domain if it is easy to spell and remember, but not lengthy. This would be helpful in establishing recognition in the name-face marketplace. Of course, if you have a common name, chances will be that someone else has beaten you to it. In that event, you might be able to use your initials combined with your last name.

Consider your target market and do a search on different types of categories in your business to see what keywords consistently pop up. One young entrepreneur did this very thing from his college dorm room, by creating an online marketplace to buy and sell unused event tickets called TicketAdvantage.com. This venture grew so quickly, that by the time Adam Witty (founder and CEO) graduated from college, his former hobby and now full-time business, had blossomed into a partnership with a national promotional baseball tour across America.

While you are thinking about names, have some fun and go to NameBoy.com. This is a free tool that is entertaining to play around with while searching for a keyword generated domain. It will tell you what is available and what has been taken, while offering a variety of other suggestions.

Keep it Short!

We caution you to try and keep the domain name as short as possible, as this will make it easier for people to remember you, while lessening the chances of errors when someone is typing it into their browser. Ideally, if you had a casual encounter with someone while discussing your business and/or products and you told them your website address, you would want them to be able to remember it until they get back to their office to jot it down.

For instance, Bavoy is an organic food distributor. Although they have a bavoy.com website; their main website has a domain name that features their number one product, healthyhearth.com. Which site do you think gets the most hits? The second one, because (1) it is named after their main product, (2) the name is intriguing, and (3) it's much easier to remember and spell correctly. Plus, visitors are automatically redirected to their main Bavoy.com site. Neat trick, huh?!

For primary domain names, it's best to keep the name to 20 characters or less. If you want to have a long domain name (up to 63 characters) for search placement purposes, make this your secondary domain with a redirect to your main site.

Excuse Me, Is This Name Taken?

With hundreds of thousands of domain names already registered, don't be surprised if you find that your choice of domain has been taken. It can be difficult to come up with a fitting name, so it will be helpful it you have several to choose from. When you have a short list of names, put them in order of favorites and look them up on a search engine to make sure they are not already taken. Then, go to the site you plan on using to register your domain and look the name up again to confirm it has not been taken.

Domain Extensions

The big daddy of all the domain extensions remains .com, with other popular extensions as .co, .net and .org. Country code domains have been created to be used by individual countries as they are deemed necessary. A popular, widespread example for the United Kingdom is .co.uk or .org.uk.

During the Internet boom in the 90s, there was a great deal of concern that the supply of available domain names would not be adequate to support the rapid growth. Therefore, new extensions, such as .info, .biz, .tv, .ws, and .cc were created to spread out the pool of unique domains. However, it is not recommended that you use these, unless you are purchasing them in conjunction with your main domain. If you are using a lesser known extension because the .com domain was already taken, there is a great likelihood that your clients will forget the extension and will type in the domainname.com instead of domainname.biz, and be directed to a different site, or even worse, your competitor. So stick with the more easily remembered extensions such as myname.net or myname.com.

So Now What?

Don't wait another minute! Once you have found the perfect domain name and you know without a doubt it is available, register it before someone else snaps it up.

You can shop around for inexpensive places to register your domain name, but I urge you to use caution. Make sure that the company you are registering with has been around for a while, because if they disappear overnight as some do, it may be difficult to renew your domain name the following year and you might lose it, which could be disastrous.

All registrars generally require the same type of information when registering your domain name: Name of company or individual; administrative contact; technical contact; billing contact; DNS server settings; and payment information. If a registrar does not ask for any registrant information, but skips instead to the payment section, you might want to skip them. There are some unscrupulous registrars that will fraudulently register themselves as the "registrant," although the client may be shown as the contact person, which means the registrars own the domain name, not you. In any event, carefully read the terms and conditions before proceeding.

Some registrars will offer packages, like registering your domain name for free if you purchase a web hosting plan from them. And some of these are really good opportunities, but again, use caution when looking at these hosting plans and check out their reliability and how long they have been around.

That's it! You are now on your way to becoming a top-notch Internet marketer and rapidly build and promote your business. This is the fun part, so enjoy it!

Charlene Davis is an experienced and published freelance writer specializing in business, technical subjects, and e-commerce. She is the coauthor with Jacquelyn Lynn on Make BIG Profits on eBay: Start Your Own Million $ Business, Entrepreneur Press, 2005, and How to Start a Senior Services Business, an Entrepreneur Media start-up guide.

For more information, visit her website at http://www.cdavisfreelance.com

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