How to Select a Good Domain Name or Two
I’ve developed a four point scoring system to determine whether a given domain name is a good choice. Give one point for each criterion that passes muster. Four out of four is best, though you’ll seldom score that high.
A good domain name should be short, the shorter the better. Recently, Art-U-Frame.com was able to acquire the art.com name for $450,000. Can you blame them? If you were stuck with Art-U-Frame.com, even your mother couldn’t remember your URL. Short is better chiefly for two reasons: It is easy to spell without error and it is memorable. Incidentally, after the name change, sales doubled.
But not all short URLs are memorable. I spoke to a company recently who decided to get some domain name like bscs.com, the initials for Boyle’s Sierra Carpeting Sales. Sure, bscs.com is short, but it is only memorable to a handful of company insiders. Now if you’re IBM, then using initials for your domain name makes sense; that’s how your customers know you. But most of the time, using initials for your domain name is a most unmemorable and customer-unfriendly approach to business.
If the domain name makes no sense in and of itself it is not memorable, and your customers won’t be able to remember what in the world it is. Much better would be a domain name like boylescarpet.com, for it is both memorable and meaningful.
Dr. Michel Fortin, the “Success Doctor” from Ottawa, Canada, has a knack with domain names. He observes that rhythm and meter can make a business name or domain name memorable. When we were looking for a domain name back in November 1995, WebMarketingToday.com seemed to capture it. It has a kind of singsong character that makes you remember it. It also met our third criteria.
3. Related to Your Core Business or Business Name
The very best domain name should be one you can guess. Yesterday I wanted to find Focus on the Family so I entered www.focusonthefamily.org. Sure enough, there it was. Their core domain was family.org (that’s nice!), but I could find them by just entering their organization name.
If your business name is too clumsy, look for something that relates to your business. An Indonesian teak furniture company, Indofurn, selected solidteak.com. Is that better than indofurn.com do you think? Which is more memorable? Perhaps both domain names would be better.
4. Hard to Misspell
Our fourth criterion may seem obvious — hard to misspell — but you’d be surprised how many domain names are tough to spell if you’ve only heard it orally. Many people are poor spellers. Still others are poor typists. Combine them together and you’re better off with a short, memorable, logical, easy-to-spell domain name. Here’s one: rosevilleelectic.com. It does pretty well with criterion 3, since it is the electric company for Roseville, California, but the doubled “e” in the center of the name makes you wonder about the spelling. You could put a hyphen between the words, but then you’d always need to explain on the phone, “It’s roseville-electric.com with a hyphen between the words.” If you always have to explain how to spell your domain name, then it’s not a very good one. Which leads us to another issue.
Buy Alternate Domain Names Now
If you’re a very small business, then $70 to secure a domain name for two years may seem like a major investment. But as you grow, you’ll wish you had purchased the common misspellings of your company name, or at least the .net and .org versions. If you’re successful, your competitors may make a nice living off the traffic from poor spellers who intended to get to your site but weren’t apt with the alphabet. If someone tries to register a domain name for a trademarked word, they probably won’t prevail if it goes to court — though they might settle for a tidy sum out of court if they have nerves of steel.
Won’t multiple domain names for your business just confuse people? No. You should only advertise one, but you use the others to bring traffic, and point all the domain names to the one site. If you are using search engine positioning and gateway pages to increase traffic, you might consider listing at least some of the gateway pages on another domain. You might gain an advantage on some search engines by using search words prominently in your name.
Let’s go back to Boyle’s Sierra Carpet Sales. We’ve agreed that bscs.com isn’t memorable. Better is boylescarpet.com, but probably Mr. Boyle ought to invest also in boylescarpets.com, in case one of his potential customers thought in the plural. Perhaps boylecarpet.com would be important in case his customer wasn’t as possessive. Mr. Boyle might want to get boyles-carpet.com, also. Some search engines are especially partial to domain names that have a keyword (such as “carpet”) as a discrete part of the domain name. You get the idea.
The investment in multiple domain names is small compared to the potential marketing value to your company. Consider obtaining all the possible combinations now before they are taken and your potential customers end up far from home.
Yes, there is some complexity in finding a good domain name, but in essence it’s simple:
- Related to the Business Name or Core Business, and
- Hard to misspell
Even you can remember that.