Top Domain Name Selection Criteria

When it comes to picking a domain name for a business website, there are a number of criteria that can be used to measure candidates. Picking an appropriate domain name is important as the domain name is central to a company’s online identity. A deliberate and well thought out domain name can have lasting benefits for a business such as building a positive brand and generating repeat traffic. Once a domain name is registered, a business is immediately invested in that domain name since it will exist in web links that drive search engine rankings, directories that drive web traffic, included on business cards, signage and other promotional materials. This article provides the top five criteria to be applied when selecting and registering a strategic domain name for a business website.

The first criteria, which can also be viewed as a prerequisite, is to find a domain name that is available. Since domain names unambiguously identify a business online much like a phone number does offline, domain names must be unique. Many of the shorter, more desirable domain names are already in use and have a great deal of worth. These include Insurance.com, Business.com, Cooking.com and Diet.com There are lots of free tools provided by domain name registrants and web hosting companies to determine if the desired domain name is available and to suggest variations when the desired domain is already taken. It is also good practice for companies to search the online US trademark database to ensure that a potential domain name is not a registered trademark for some other business. Believe it or not, there are known instances where businesses had to surrender domain names they registered which were later discovered to violate trademarks of other companies, even though the trademark owners had not previously registered the domain name.

The second domain name selection criteria is to find a name that is related to the business name, the brand or industry. If the business has an established brand identity, then the choice of domain name should be the brand name, if available. Some of the largest ecommerce sites fall into this category, namely Amazon.com, ebay.com and craigslist.org. Their domain names are their brand names which were established over the years. However, if a business is new and does not yet have an established, widely-recognized brand identity, the domain name selected can benefit if related to the business focus. Examples of this kind of domain name include PRWeb.com, EzineArticles.com and emarketer.com, though it is unclear to the author whether these currently well-established brands were built before or after their domain names were registered. Either way, a prospective visitor can look at these domain names and get an idea of the business focus of the registered owner. Having a domain name aligned with business focus can also assist with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and increase visitors referred to the business website from search engines.

The third domain name selection criteria is based on the old adage, “less is more.” In other words, it is best to select a domain name that is as short as possible while taking into account the other selection criteria. Many suggest that ten characters or less is ideal. This can be quite a challenge with so many domain names already registered and in use over the last decade and a half. To make matters worse, many investors registered domain names for the sole purpose of markuping them and reselling them prior to their use. This practice, known as domain name parking, is based on speculation of high demand and motivated buyers for certain domain names. That said, there are still plenty of available domain names that are ten characters or less for those willing to be creative. Having a short domain name benefits the website address by reducing the number of misspellings, making it easier to remember and able to fit on business cards, stationery and signage.

The fourth domain name selection criteria is to register.com suffixes whenever possible. Most Internet users assume that commercial entities will have domain names that end in.com as opposed to.net,.biz,.tv,.us,.info, etc. Many looking for the website of a well-known company or brand will add “www.” to the company or brand name, then append “.com” to the end in attempts to navigate directly to the website of interest. Some businesses will select a popular brand or company name as their domain name “root” but register it with one a non-.com suffix since the.com domain name is already registered by the brand owner. While this approach may yield “free” traffic, conversion rates of visitors to customers will be very low as these visitors will usually abandon the website feeling misled. The same principle applies to selecting a domain name using a misspelled brand or company name.

The fifth and final domain name selection criteria is what I call “The 3Rs” – easy to Recite, Recognize and Recall. Random strings of numbers and letters make good system passwords, but horrible domain names. They are difficult to remember and nearly impossible to guess. This applies to acronyms that represent unknown brands. This is especially relevant when providing a website address to radio audiences or presentation listeners. A good domain name will enable advertisers and presenters to recite a website address to potential clients and customers who will hear and recognize the website address, then recall that address next time they are online. Domain names with word components that can be spelled in multiple ways such as “ad”, “add”, “two”, “to”, “too” should be avoided as listeners will be prone to misspell the website address when attempting to reach the business online.

Carefully selecting and registering a strategic domain name is an important step in launching an online business identity. Businesses will benefit from selecting wisely as domain names, once registered, will quickly find their way into countless materials, partner links and search engine indices that become expensive to update if changes are required. Applying these top five domain name selection criteria will enhance online identity, increase website traffic and make it easier for customers and prospects to connect with your business.

Rick Noel is an experienced Internet consultant with over a decade of Internet, marketing and sales experience with General Electric, Bellcore, Telcordia and Burst Media.

Are All Domain Extensions Created

Are all domain extensions created equal?

A Short History of .com

Your domain is similar to the license plate on your car. You have to pay a fee and register it with a domain registrar like the DMV. It identifies you as the owner and determines where you are within the cyber space world. It expires within a set period of time, and you have the option to put it online or (park it) somewhere with your preferred web host.

Even after 30 years, the .com is one of the most sought after extensions. .com stands for commercial – initially intended for commercial organizations..org was originally meant to represent non-profit organizations, .net (stands for network) was supposed to indicate networking technologies operators. The (.com /.org /.net) distinction has taken on a whole new meaning and is now more unrestricted in its use than ever.

.com was one of the first top-level extensions on the internet and was directed and overseen by the U.S. Department of Defense. However, maintenance was done by SRI International (Stanford Research Institute) which created the Network Information Center. Their main purpose was to govern domain name allocations and provide a directory service. In 1993, the National Science Foundation took over and partnered with Network Solutions. They instituted the idea of charging an annual fee for those who wanted to register a domain name. Mainly because.com’s weren’t being used for any defense purposes. In its infancy, the fee was 50 dollars a year. 35.00 went to the National Science Foundation and 15.00 to the government. In 1997, The United States Department of Commerce took over these responsibilities. Internet operations today are now being overseen by VeriSign (which acquired Network Solutions).

Differences in domain extensions

These days, .com’s are the most established and recognized extension in the internet world. No longer is it reserved for commercial sites but for anyone (personal, organization, or business) looking to create a good website and gain some legitimacy. Even with the introduction of.biz in 2001 (that would only be used for business), the popularity of .com has not diminished. The first domain name registered on the internet using .com was symbolics.com on March 15, 1985. Their company aided in the development of computers. The second was BBN.com on April 24, 1985, followed by think.com on May 24, 1985. Today, the number of registered .com’s exceed over 100 million. This makes it number one – even among the largest top-level domains – beating out .net, .org, and others. Domain names can get pricey, in fact, insurance.com was worth 35.6 million in 2010, vacationrentals.com was valued at 35 million in 2007, and PrivateJet.com commanded an impressive appraisal of 30.1 million in 2012.

Nearly 52% of Google visitors use .com. But .com, .net, .org are unrestricted and open to the public to use. Some domain names, however, are not open. For example, .gov must be a division of federal, state, or local government as well as Native Sovereign Nations. .edu is reserved for 4-year public universities or educational institutions that grant degrees..mil is restricted to divisions of the US military.

Why Domain Names are so important

Domain names are how people find you; what people need to remember to find your site again, to buy your services, products, and read your articles. They are one of the most essential parts of marketing. For this reason, it can give what your selling legitimacy and instill confidence and value. The domain name is an important part of your brand. Your entire website name is also factored into Google’s ranking algorithm. The better you’re ranked, the better your chances for people to find you.

The Differences between Domain Names

This being said, .com is more popular for a reason. Anyone can type the name of a website into a search engine and find it easily. In some ways, .com has become a kind of default in the system, and it’s simply easier for people to recall a .com address. For other domain names, more branding is required for people to get used to using it. If done properly, not using .com shouldn’t matter. .org and .net are the second and third runner’s up in popularity after.com. One of things to keep in mind is that some registrars will charge extra for .org and .net. Using .net would be a great choice for subject matter that is technically related if it fits into your branding plan. It might also be a plus if your company name ends with net. Be careful with using .org since it was intended for non-profit use, if used for anything else it may brew distrust among consumers. Although many people have strayed from the .org’s original design; make sure it’s a good fit for you and your enterprise. You want to build a strong foundation from the beginning.

The biggest thing to keep in mind – create a brand complete with trustworthy, honest content on your website. Finding something that is memorable and fits the image of your brand is the ultimate win-win. Something else to consider: there isn’t much difference between the domain name extension and a better SEO rating. We consumers, readers, and visitors have become creatures of habit – we still view a .com as a business (for the most part) and .org as an organization (mainly non-profit). After that, the next big difference is price. As someone who is selling anything, public perception is paramount. One thing to consider is that .com, .org, and .net are the most popular. People recognize them as more trustworthy over other extensions (such as info or .biz). One strategy is to buy all available extensions to avoid any trademark or competitor issues.

You’ve come along way, baby

A lot has changed since 1985. Since the .com’s humble beginnings (of being one of the only games-in-town), there are now over 100 extension choices. Experts in any field may opt for.guru or adventurous types may adorn the .ninja extension. There are also ways to distinguish your field of expertise, location, or establishment with a .lawyer, .london, or .club premium extension.