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Buying Domain Names: Choosing A Domain Name

Buying Domain Names: Choosing A Domain NameWhat exactly goes into choosing the right domain name? There are a number of factors you can consider, but there is just one that matters: How will your potential customers recognize what your site is about?

If you read our article on Naming Your Business, you can see that there are a few categories that domain business names can belong to. If you have investors and a large advertising budget, you can choose a domain that is more abstract. Think of Apple, Amazon or Target. Just looking at their names, you would have no idea that Apple sold computers and technology products, Amazon sells books and everything else or that Target is a value department store. The reason you may know what these companies do is because they have developed their brands using millions of advertising dollars.

The same is true for initial or name businesses like Dell, Hewlett-Packard or Charles Schwab. They use advertising to develop their brands. This means they spend a whole lot of money so you know who they are and what they sell.

Chances are you don’t have millions to spend on advertising campaigns. That’s OK! Choosing the right domain name will show potential customers or visitors exactly what your site has to offer. For example, BobbiesShoes.com tells you right away that the site sells shoes. If you click on the site and it turns out they sell lawnmowers, you will most likely leave. My point is, choose your domain name based on what your site provides and never have a misleading domain name.

Notice in the previous example I used a person’s name in the domain name. There is nothing wrong with that as long as it has the subject in the name as well. So, if you want to be FlagstoneMarketing.com, or JenniesBakery.com, that’s perfectly fine. As more plain-English domains become taken, it is more likely you will need to come up with a name like this. If you sell cell phone accessories and want cellphone.com as your domain, it is most likely taken. If the site is vacant, you may be able to purchase the domain for ten thousand dollars. But that’s ridiculous unless you already have a very profitable business that needs that specific domain for some reason.

How To Choose A Domain Name For Your Business

We already covered the type of domain name to select, but what is best for different businesses?

Internet Marketing

If you are an Internet marketer, your domain is a critical part of both recognition and getting traffic to your site. Your main keyword must be in your domain name. If your site has something to do with shoes, then “shoes” should be in your domain name. If you are an affiliate marketer, your domain should contain a keyword related to your product or product niche. Also, you ideally want a .com domain.

For marketers who need multiple landing pages, the same applies. If you are promoting a CPA offer for a weight loss product and have a landing page with a review, your domain for that landing page should have your target keyword in it and possibly the word “review”. That keyword may be a common one like “weight loss” or it could be a more specific keyword like “Miracle Diet Pill”. Either way, it should be in your domain name.

Don’t worry about the length of the domain name if you are using it for landing pages. If it is five words long, it doesn’t matter. The reason is you will most likely be promoting it via pay per click or other targeted method that focuses on a certain search term or small set of search terms. While the ideal situation is for your name to be memorable to visitors so they may come back when they decide to buy, it is not mandatory with this type of Internet marketing.

E-Commerce

If you are selling a physical product online, your domain name should either directly mention that product (e.g. BobbiesShoes.com) or a keyword group that is very closely associated with your product (e.g. comfyfeet.com). You want your potential customers to know what your site is about at a 2 second glance – because that’s about all you have to grab them. (If you are an existing company with an existing name and you are going to start selling on the web, skip to the next section.)

Always go for a .com domain. They are globally associated with business and are the most widely recognized as legitimate. It is not recommended to use .net or .org for an ecommerce business. While these extensions are recognizable, they were not intended for and are not often used for sales websites. There is also the newer .biz extension, but we feel it’s too new and has not yet built the credibility you need to put your best foot forward on the web.

Web Presence For Small Business

business domain namesFor small business owners branching out onto the web or existing businesses that only want a web presence (meaning your site has information about your company and is not directly selling goods, services or affiliate products) your domain should be your business name. While this may seem obvious, it can get more complicated if the domain name for your business is already owned by someone else.

There are legitimate reasons this can happen. Small businesses, unless they register their name as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), can have the same name if they are in different states. When you register your business in one state, no other business in that state can have the same name. For example, Texas can have only one Flora’s Flowers. However, unless Flora claimed national ownership of her name by registering it with the USPTO, there can be 50 Flora’s Flowers in the US – one in each state. That means only one of them can grab the FlorasFlowers.com domain name.

Domain names are global. That means whoever owns FlorasFlowers.com owns it internationally. For corporations, there are international trademark laws that they must use to protect their corporate identity. This is why you don’t see companies called Microsoft springing up in Canada, Spain and so on. And just because someone lives in London does not mean they have to use the .co.uk extension. This means competition for domains is also international. If the Flora’s Flowers in London got the domain first, you are out of luck.

There are also illegitimate reasons someone may own your business domain name. Unscrupulous people called cybersquatters buy up domain names for the sole purpose of selling them back to their rightful owners at an outrageous price – essentially holding the name hostage and demanding a ransom be paid for its return. The Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act passed in 1999 states that people or companies who register domain names that are trademarks and/or individual’s names with the sole intent of selling the rights of the domain name to the trademark holder or individual for a profit are liable to civil action (lawsuit).

If you have owned your business name for a long time, and it was registered in your state or with the USPTO before the cybersquatter purchased the corresponding domain name, you may be able to sue that person for the rights to your name. Unfortunately, the thing that stops many people from pursuing legal action is the cost of representation. One thing to remember is that if the registrant is not in the US, legal action could be difficult since different countries have different laws. We are by no means providing legal advice to you here. If you believe this has been done to you and you want to do something about it, do your research and contact an attorney before you take any action.

So what should you do if your business domain name is taken?
You have a few options in this case that will still look professional while preserving your business’s name and identity. One option is adding your state or city to your domain. For example, if FlorasFlowers.com was taken, you could try FlorasFlowersTexas.com or FlorasFlowersOfDallas.com. In some cases, adding “my” or “your” to the domain can also work, like myFlorasFlowers.com. This compensates for not being exact by providing the impression of customer focus.

Another alternative, though less desirable for a brick and mortar business, would be Floras-Flowers.com. This option leans more toward being found by people using search engines. Customers typing your business name directly into their browsers may not remember the hyphen. While these suggestions are not exactly the business name, in all cases the business name is preserved and the domain name still contains the relevant keywords.

One thing we would advise against is using odd letter or number combinations. There are instances where this may work well, but in general, it does not. FlorasFlowers1.com is OK – it meets the criteria of preserving the business name and keywords. However, it is harder to remember because it does not match the name customers think of when they think Flora’s Flowers. Something like xFlorasFlowersx.com is a bad choice for the same reason. FlorasFlwrs.com is an especially bad choice because not only is it not memorable, it does not contain the business name and it ruins the keyword “flowers”. Using FlowersbyFlora.com is not a good choice for two reasons if your business is called Flora’s Flowers. The first being that people may not think to reverse the name of your business to reach your website. The second is that you may be causing customers to think of a competitor, and potentially cause yourself to lose business to them, if there is a Flowers by Flora nearby.

Buying Domain Names: Domain Name Ideas

If you are trying to think of a good domain name and are stuck (or everything you have thought of is taken), here are a few ideas you can try:

  • Separate the words in your domain with hyphens. While this can have mixed results with regard to customer recollection of your name, it is search engine friendly. Just be sure there isn’t another business with the same name unhyphenated or you could have customers getting confused between your two sites and an angry competitor who thinks you are trying to steal his name.
  • You can add your state or town to the domain. This preserves the keywords and lets local people know you are in the area. This is better for brick and mortar businesses than for web only businesses. A web shopper may pass you by because they think you only serve local customers.
  • You can use your name in your domain. Just make sure that, unless your name already has recognition, it’s not the only thing in your domain name. FlorasFlowers.com is one example, SmithfordMarketing.com or JSMarketing is another.
  • Play with adding or using words that relate to, or have a special meaning in, your industry or niche. This idea works well if people tend to search for that keyword more often than they search for the title of that industry or niche.
  • Make up a word and use it in your domain. For instance, I just looked at the calendar on my wall, so let’s say CalindriaCalendars.com is our name. If you sell calendars and day planners, that name contains the keyword “calendars” (along with our made up word calindria). Just be sure to do a web and USPTO search for that made up word to make sure nobody else already made it up and trademarked it.

Another important tip pertains to the use of .net and .org. domains. The .net generic top-level domain (gTLD) was originally intended for organizations involved in networking technologies, such as Internet service providers and other infrastructure companies. Though anyone can register a .net domain name, this extension is still commonly associated with networks and related businesses. If someone owns the .com version of the name you want, .net can be a tempting alternative. Be aware that there will be confusion among customers about which site is the one they want to visit.

.org gTLDs were originally intended for non-profit organizations or organizations of a non-commercial character. Notice that charities typically have .org domains. Just like .net, anyone can register a .org domain. Just like .net, people may get confused (since .com is what naturally comes to mind when we think “website”) and may misinterpret the character of your business.

While we recommend you try to find a .com domain whenever possible, there are reasons for a business to purchase the .net and .org variants of their business domain name along with the primary .com version. The most common is brand identity protection. This basically means that you buy the other variations of your domain name so nobody else can have them. This allows any business owner to protect their name from those who would use the other variations to misrepresent themselves as you or otherwise mislead your customers, trick or scam your customers, piggyback on your success, steal your traffic or unknowingly or maliciously damage your reputation. The other common reason is that you plan to have different offshoots of your business do different things (thus having different content) with each of the 3 domain extensions.

Find Domain Names

So you have a few ideas in mind for your domain name… how can you find out if it’s available? This is the easiest part. Use our DomainView™ tool to instantly check the availability of any domain name. DomainView™ is completely free to use and will check the domain availability for .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz and .us. Go ahead, give it a try.

Register New Domain Name

register new domain nameOnce you find a domain name you like, you need to register it to secure ownership. The registrar we use and recommend is NameCheap. Registration is simple and their administrative interface is easy to use – even for newbies. They provide a significant number of features with each domain purchase, including a free Private SSL certificate, and domains only cost $9.69 (and NameCheap is almost always running a discount code on top of that). They are currently including WhoisGuard domain protection free with domain registration or domain transfer from another registrar.

WHOIS is a database of registered domains. Anyone can search it and find out the owner and their email address, address, telephone number, the registrar they used to register the domain, the nameservers to which they have pointed the domain, the date they created the domain and how long they have owned it, the expiration date of the domain and the last renewal date. This is necessary to keep track of who owns what and for people to verify that a domain is not owned by a squatter or fraudster. It is also a boon to spammers, who use it to gather email addresses.

WhoisGuard is a service that prevents people from gaining access to your address, phone number and email using WHOIS. They provide their information in WHOIS so that yours is safe. You retain full control of the domain and can enable or disable WhoisGuard whenever you want. They provide a new email address, meaning every email sent to that address is forwarded to an email address of your choice. They also provide an option to change the email address in a specified interval to further reduce SPAM. We gradually migrated all our domains to NameCheap. For each and every domain we transferred, we saw a dramatic drop in email SPAM within a week of enabling the WhoisGuard service. This has saved us a few hours per week in email administration tasks.

WhoisGuard also places their phone number and fax number in your domain’s WHOIS so you don’t get unsolicited calls or faxes. They will forward any regular mail either through postal mail or email (as a scanned copy).

Click here to visit NameCheap now and register or transfer your domain – and take advantage of the free WhoisGuard feature.

 

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