A to Z of Domain Name Selection
Selecting a domain name, or web address, is the most
imposrtant task you will undertake when moving your
business online. Here's an A to Z guide, which you should
help you choose the right domain names for your website.
A is for Availability
Over 18 million names have already been registered, and
they are being registered at a ferocious rate.
B is for Benefits
It's well know amongst marketing experts that people don't
buy products, they buy benefits. Let's say for example that
you are setting up a site to sell holidays to Thailand.
Obvious choices for names might be VisitThailand.com or
DestinationThailand.com. Both are reasonable enough, but
they don't offer the user any tangible benefit, or reason
why they should be buying the product. A much better name
is ExoticThailand.com. The beauty of this benefit-based
name is that you are offering the user something tangible,
an exotic experience. The sales process has begun right in
the domain name itself, and you are half way towards
capturing the sale.
C is for Characters
The only characters that a domain name can contain are
letters, numbers, and hyphens. Spaces and other special
characters are not allowed. Domain names are not
case-sensitive, so BestBuys.com and bestbuys.com are the
same name, and can never point to different sites.
Although hyphens are allowed in domains, there is a golden
rule to follow here: It's OK to register a name with
hyphens in, but only if you also register the hyphen-free
The reason is simple. Most customers will remember a name
that they have seen advertised on TV or in a magazine, but
forget whether or not it contained hyphens. So if your
site is called Tasty-Cakes.com, a typical web user
recalling the name from memory will just type
TastyCakes.com into their browser. If you haven't
registered the hyphen-free version, you will be losing a
large percentage of customers. And if a competitor is
devious enough to have registered the hyphen-free version
(and they often are) you will be spending advertising
dollars sending your customers to a competitor's site.
D is for Dot Com
Dot com names are the gold standard on the Internet.
Millions of advertising dollars have already been spent
persuading customers that Dot com names are the only names
worth having. The latest web browsers will even default to
Dot com if no extension is specified. Always register the
Dot com version of your name, even if you choose to
E is for Extensions
But what about other extensions? Dot net, Dot org, Dot cc,
Dot tv, Dot co.uk etc. etc. Which ones should you register?
Our advise is to try and register at least the Dot net
version of your name, possibly the Dot org as well.
And if you are a company operating outside the United
States, you should definitely register your
country-specific domain. For example, in the UK, you would
register the Dot co.uk version.
By registering several domain name extensions, you are
preventing namespace dilution. If you owned a site called
TastyCakes.com, and a competitor registered
TastyCakes.co.uk, TastyCakes.net etc. many of your
customers would end up visiting your competitor's site by
F is for Free Domains
Some companies will try to persuade you that you don't
actually need your own domain name, and you can get away
with renting a free sub-directory of their name. So, for
example, if you business is based around silk products,
you could easily get a free domain such as
There are several compelling reasons why you should not accept such a free offer:
G is for Generic
If you can get hold of a generic domain name for your
business, you have a great marketing edge. Generic names
are easy to remember, but their killer advantage is that
they produce a regular flow of potential customers to you
site without you having to spend a dollar on marketing.
A recent case illustrates the point beautifully. The
publishers of a computer game starring Brazilian soccer
start Ronaldo have offered 150,000 US Dollars to the owner
of the name Ronaldo.com. The publisher was quoted as
saying Anyone searching for information on Ronaldo,
whether it is about the forthcoming PlayStation game or
any other related merchandise, is automatically going to
www.ronaldo.com. If we don't secure the name in the next
two weeks, we are going to have to spend considerably more
on Internet advertising than we would have if we had owned
And generic names need not be limited to single words.
Many people interested in the Thai language for example
will try typing ThaiLanguage.com into their browser before
resorting to the search engine lottery. To summarize,
generic name = free customers.
H is for Hosting
Having a domain name without web space is like having an
address without a home. This is what hosting is all about,
where your name is parked at a server computer on the
Internet, so that other Internet users can access your
Nowadays, it's possible to register a domain well before
you have got a website ready or found a computer to host it
on. You are reserving the name for future use. This is a
great benefit, as it means you can register the name when
you think of it, not when you have found a server to host
the site on.
I is for Identity
Your domain name is your identity in the new digital
economy. Be very careful to pick the right domain names for
you business before you go online. Being forced to find a
new identity after launch is a very time-consuming and
J is for Just a Minute
We sometimes get contacted by parties who say things like
'Just a minute, we've been trading successfully for the
last year under the name 4MikesWindows.net. What you're
doing is a scam.'
The truth is that a poor choice of name will always reduce
the number of visitors (and hence customers) to your
website. Sure, you can still run a successful online
business with a lousy name, but your business will always
do better with a good name. And what happens when a
competitor comes along with a much better name?
K is for KISS
"Keep it Simple, Stupid". Use easy to spell words. Use easy
to pronounce words. Limit names to two words if possible,
three words as an absolute maximum. Remember that the idea
is to create domain names that people can easily remember,
and just as easily type into their browser.
L is for Length
Domain names can now be up to sixty seven characters in
length, but we would never advise you to register a name
anywhere near that. The golden rule of selecting a good
name is short is sweet. Would you like to type a sixty
seven character domain string into a browser? No, and
neither does anybody else.
M is for Multiple Spellings
Some popular English language words are spelt differently
around the English-speaking world. For instance, Jewelry
(US) Vs Jewellery (UK). If you have an international
business, make sure you register all of the different
N is for Now!
Register your preferred names now! Otherwise someone else
O is for Offline
Don't forget that your primary domain name will be used
extensively offline as well as online. It will appear on
your company letterhead, business cards, advertisements in
newspapers, magazines, radio and TV. Your goal should be
to familiarize all your existing customers with your
domain, and plant the name in the minds of new customers.
Now are you getting the idea about how important domain
names really are?
P is for Purchase
The majority of domain names already registered are not in
fact owned by parties looking to develop a web site, but by
entrepreneurs hoping to sell the name on for a profit.
GreatDomains.com and Afternic.com are domain name auction sites where hundreds of thousands of names are listed for sale by resellers, eager to turn a quick profit. So should you be prepared to buy a name rather than register a new one? In principle, yes. The domain name aftermarket is now a huge legitimate business, which is growing incredibly quickly. But whether you choose to go that route will depend on many things:
Q is for Questions
If you have any more questions about domain names, there
are some great domain name resource sites around. Take a
look at DNSIndex.com, DomainWeekly.com, or
R is for Registration
Domain name registration is the process whereby you pay a
fee in order to reserve a name for current or future use.
Each country has its own registration process and fee
structures vary accordingly, but you can expect to register
a name for $70 or less for a 2-year period.
S is for Search Engines
Some site developers have started registering names that
contain keywords relevant to their site. So, for example a
site selling cars might register a name like
Cars-For-Sale-Car-Dealer-Buy-Car.com. They do so in the
belief that it will boost their search engine rankings.
However, there is little or no evidence to support this
assertion. Our advice is to save your money.
Something that definitely is true about most search engines
is that they list domain names in lower case, whether you
submitted them in lower, upper, or mixed case. So
BeDaring.com would turn into bedaring.com when viewed as
output from a search engine. Please be careful :)
T is for Trademarks
Trademarks are a very complex legal entity, but they are
also a very important mechanism for protecting your
identity online. Take a look at a site like
NameProtect.com who provide an excellent range of
trademark services, including trademark searching,
trademark registration, and a free trademark monitoring
U is for URL
People will sometimes ask you "What's your URL?". URL is
an acronym for Universal Resource Locator, but is often
used interchangeably with domain name, Internet address,
or web address.
V is for Voice Recognition
Already in parts of Japan, more people are surfing the web
on their mobile phones than from conventional PCs. Voice
recognition technology has now come of age, and will be
used to power many of the next generation browsers. So use
easily pronounced words for your name, don't use
misspellings or hyphens. If your website is called
2B-TheBest.com, don't expect any visitors from voice
-powered web surfers.
W is for World Wide Web
Remember that the names you select will have global
visibility, so use words which people can relate to
globally. BobsAutoMall.com might go down well in the
States, but would be virtually meaningless to UK netizens.
X is for X-Rated domains
If your domain contains offensive words, don't be surprised
if you end up in deep water, especially if your website is
aimed at a general audience. Play it safe, and avoid
domain names which are 'too' controversial.
Y is for Yet To Come
The Internet is changing at lightning speed. Yesterday's
news seems like old news. Domain names are no exception.
To catch up on the industry buzz we recommend the
Afternic.com news page.
Z is for ZZZX.com
ZZZX.com - a rarely visited web site. Yahoo!(TM) lists site in alphabetical order in its directory, so poor old ZZZX.com will not get many visitors from the most popular search engine on the Web.