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PICKING A DOMAIN NAME ("My name is URL")

Written by Clarke Graves

(January 2009) - Your website name, or url, should be given the same thought and care as a company's name. Here are several things to consider in making the right choice.

Often times, ClarkeDesign is asked for tips opinion on picking a domain name. The first thing I stress to my clients, family and friends, is that such an important decision should be given the same thought and care as picking a company name. It is part of your identity and just may be the only way someone can find you. After stressing to them that they should put a lot of time in to the decision, I follow up with the following points that I have found very helpful in successful web-enabled companies.

Important rules of picking a domain name...

Relevance

Try and choose a url that is applicable to what your website is about. There are often trends that stray from this. For instance, putting the letter “i” in front of products (thanks to the popularity of the Apple iPod) is common, but that doesn’t mean your website should be www.iStuff.com. Sure its catchy, but if you are selling skin care products, there are benefits from having a url that is applicable to that. Maybe www.GreatSkinCare.com is a better long term alternative. Especially after the “i” trend passes and we are on to the next letter.

Memorable

You won’t always have a business card to hand over and you might be in too much of a hurry to get a pen to jot your website down for someone. If you have a memorable url though, there is a great chance your website visitor will remember it when they get to a computer next. I don’t know about you, but I am more likely to remember www.HeadHighSurf.com than www.MediumToBigSurf.com. For the latter, I might forget in a few hours if it was “MediumToLargeSurf” or “MidToBigSurf”. A couple wrong attempts in a web browser, and I am likely to give up.

Spelling

Avoid words that may cause a misspelling when the user types it in. www.DaiquiriDrinker.com might be relevant to a fruity drink resource website, but even the soberest of fans will have difficulty getting the url spelled correctly.

Sometimes there are trends to intentionally spell a webpage wrong. Consider www.flickr.com for instance. And while that is a very popular site, don’t go the route of misspelling just because it’s cute. You may lose a lot of traffic because you opted for www.FindAPuppie.com instead of the correctly spelled www.FindAPuppy.com.

Easy to convey in a conversation

Avoid words that can be spelled multiple ways. Homonyms, words that sound the same but are spelled differently, can pose problems when you are telling someone your website in dialog. The domains www.IsleHunter.com and www.AisleHunter.com both sound the same when you speak them, but one might be for Tropical Vacations and the other a site for airline frequent flyers who always want the aisle seat. The last thing you want to do is always follow up your url in conversation with a quantifier... “Check out my website, www.BeechTree.com. You spell it ‘e’ – ‘e’.”

Length

Try not to have a domain that is very long. Having a long url increases the chance for a typing error. Even simple to spell words cause a typo. And a long url makes it more difficult to find the error and fix it.

Remember...its all about being easy for your visitor to get to the site. Don’t make them type a novel each time they visit you.

Search Engine Keywords

The most important visitors to your site are people. Keep in mind though, that search engines are scouring the net each day trying to provide accurate search results for their users. Therefore, they are a secondary visitor that is worth considering. If possible, include a keyword that someone might type into a search engine to find you. A url like www.BaysideBaseballBats.com is great for anyone searching for “Baseball Bats”! Just be aware...you might also come up on results for someone typing in “Bayside Apartments” and “Monterey Bay Bat Rays”.

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