Domain Name Registration: Tips on Domain Selection and Buying

Image Domain Name Registration: Tips on Domain Selection and Buying
By Vanessa Salvia

When you're ready to launch your business online, the name you choose for your Internet address should be foremost in your mind. While finding a good name that is still available is tough at this point in time, it's not true that "all the good names are taken." Finding the best name just requires a little creativity and knowledge of the Internet landscape.

Naming tips

If your company name or location is important, try to work those in. Otherwise, go for something memorable that relates to your business or industry somehow. It's best to choose the name by which people know your company rather than an abbreviation or acronym, unless you're well-known by your acronym. Still, because of the large number of words that an acronym can stand for, you'll be lucky if the one you need is available.

One of our client sites, HookedOnVintage.com, sells vintage men's and women's clothing and accessories, so this name suits the business well. The domain HOV.com was already taken, as most acronyms are, but even if it was available, it doesn't convey much information. It's better to register "hookedonvintage.com," instead of "hov-inc.com," "hovintage.com" or "hookedonvin.com." Visitors have more of a chance of getting your domain right if it spells out the company name.

Ask your friends and coworkers what they would expect your domain name to be. Also keep in mind how your domain name sounds when you spell it out over the phone. There shouldn't be unusual or creative spelling or abbreviations that need to be explained.

Keyword rich: The search engines, including Google have put increased weight on the words in a domain name when rankings websites. So if your top phrase is "organic cloth diapers" you would do well to select a domain name that has at least two of those words in it.

Make it memorable: The top concern is not always whether a customer can find your website today, but if they can remember the name and find it tomorrow or in six months. Ask yourself if a person would be able to remember the name of your domain the next day, and whether they could successfully type it in and get back there.

Make it easy: If it's too easy for someone to misspell the domain name, they'll likely either be directed to a competitor or spam site or get an error message and conclude that the business has closed its virtual doors. If it is within your budget, you might want to consider purchasing domain names that would represent common misspellings.

Length: Short is definitely better, but it's also best to avoid confusing abbreviations and acronyms in an effort to shorten a long name. You have up to 67 characters to play with, so you should be able to get your full company's name. If you can get your full company name without going over the limit, it's worth considering.

Dashes: Better not to use more than one, for a few reasons. It makes it more difficult for people to remember all of the dashes and type the name correctly. When explaining your domain name, the dashes will only slow you down and make it more bulky.

Used to be, a domain name with multiple relevant keywords separated by dashes would do well in the search engine results pages (SERPs). That's no longer the case, as Google and other top search engines have "learned" that search engine spammers often use dashes to separate keywords in a domain name, and now, domains with more than one or two dashes are considered spammy, and are given less preference in the SERPs.

Double meanings: One other thing to keep in mind is whether or not the domain you would like to register has other words hidden inside of it when the words are written together with no dashes or spaces. If the words combine to form a new word, are you comfortable with it?

Choose the right suffix

Try to go with a .com site, but it is OK to use others. First, a quick tutorial: the .com, .net, .org, .info, and so on is called the "Top-level domain." Consider another of our client sites, FlyingClipper.com. the .com is the top level domain or just "top domain," and FlyingClipper.com is technically a sub-domain of the top-level .com domain and is typically just referred to as the domain name. Often, domains, will have further levels of subdomains, such as support.mightymerchant.com.

There are numerous top-level domains that can be chosen, and each one holds some significance to the type of business or organization it is, such as those for the generally commercial (.com), and for educational organizations (.edu). Non-profit organizations typically have the .org extension. Other countries have their own country-specific top domains, such as Australia's .au, and the United Kingdom's .uk. When you see these extensions, most likely the website is hosted on a server in that country, or the origin of the business is in that country, although there are some rare, creatively named domains where that's not necessarily true (one well-known one is del.icio.us)

Anyone can register domains with .net, .info, or .biz regardless of the industry, but rightly or wrongly, domains with these extensions are considered to be more spammy and less professional than those with the .com extension.

Where to search

You can search for available domain names or who owns names that are already registered by searching at a respected site likehttp://whois.domaintools.com. This tool can tell you domains for sale and make domain name suggestions, among other things. The sitehttp://www.whois.netcan tell you who owns domains that are already registered.

Don't get too wrapped up in getting a particular name. It can be expensive to buy a domain from a "domain seller," someone who has made it their business to buy appealing domain names in the hopes that a business will come along later and buy it from them. It's more affordable to come up with a creative name on your own.

Check the history

You can create an original name or buy domains that have expired, perhaps from businesses that changed their domain name or went out of business. If you do this, check the history to make sure the domain you're considering buying has no "red flags" against it in its search engine history. Make sure the previous site was not associated with pornography, hate speech, or spam. If it was avoid the domain.

It's also possible that a used domain name may have been blacklisted at some point due to unsavory content or search engine optimization techniques. Check to see if the URL or it's associated IP address has been blacklisted by running it through a site like MXToolbox blacklist checker http://www.mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx

You might be able to view an archived snapshot of an old domain by running it through "The Wayback Machine," a tool athttp://www.archive.org This toolhttp://www.seomoz.org/toolbox/agecan tell you the age of a domain and when it was first spidered by search engines.

A previously used domain may have links to it from pages you may not be aware of. Always check a site's backlink profile using a tool such ashttp://www.seomoz.org/toolbox/backlinks, that reports the number of backlinks and also shows a historical view of previous backlinks.

Registering your domain name

When you reserve a name, make sure to do it through one of the large registrars and print out the account information and file it for access to the account at a later time. If you ever change your email address, update your domain account info so you are notified when the domain is set to expire. Registration with a reputable site usually costs between $5 and $25 a year. There are often discounts if you register or renew for multiple years, which can save you the headache of having to remember to do it, and the heartache of forgetting to renew it and losing it to someone who buys the name out from under you.

Defensive registration

Don't go hog wild reserving names, but if you have a great name or if your brand identity and name are very important, you might want to register domain names using some similar terms or a range of suffixes to prevent competitors or spammers from getting them.

Registering multiple versions of your name makes sense in a lot of cases. If your company's name is hard to spell, register every common misspelling of its name, if you can. Other domains you might consider registering are the names of products and services your company offers. These sites can be linked to your company domain, and provide customers an easy alternative to finding you.

What rights do you have when you purchase a name?

While common language says that a person "owns" a domain name, really they just pay for the exclusive right to use it. The renewal fee allows you to continue this right to use it, but you can't own a domain outright. And unfortunately, there are circumstances where even though you might own the domain name you use, if another business has trademarked the name you chose or uses the name in some other public way, a court may take the right to use the name away from you. The more investigation you do regarding the chosen name of your domain name, the better.


Finally, reinforce the name you chose by incorporating it into your site's logo and on all printed and electronic material you use. In the early days of Internet business, a website was almost like an afterthought. People might add the website name in parentheses after everything else about the company. Today though, savvy businesses put the website front and center. Add your website to your email signature, business cards, stationary, anything that has to do with your business. This name is your electronic identity, your calling card, so use it everywhere you can.

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