Tips for choosing a great domain name
The hardest part of securing a domain name is actually thinking up a suitable name.
You can forget about virtually every word in the English dictionary as all the readily spelt single words have been taken already.
We would recommend brainstorming a name and then seeing if it is available. The name could be strictly descriptive of the service you offer or expressive, for example “thetranslationpeople.com” or “lingo24.com” - just two sites in the same field we plucked off the Internet.
We prefer the expressive and creative domains, such “lingo24.com”, the more expressive, creative and original the better. Combining two words together or combining and shortening them can also be a good idea.
Apparently Skype.com started as a project called “Sky peer-to-peer”, which was then shortened to “Skyper”. However, “skyper” was already registered for some key domains, so the name was simply shortened again to Skype.
While coming up with these sorts of derivative names is arguably simpler, you better have enough money to turn them into a brand name. Not many people ask how Skype got their name; they simply know what the service does.
Pinterest.com is a great domain name, it clearly combines both the relevant keywords to describe the service. Another good name (we think) is PollenTree.com – used for a fertility network, it is more creative and expressive, than descriptive, but it does convey the principle of the site and product quite well.
Big money - buy a big name
If you really want a particular name and you find it has already been registered one possible option is to just try and buy it. If the name is already associated with an active website this will be more expensive and less likely – that said it depends on your budget. B&Q bought diy.com and Barnes & Noble purchased books.com – obviously they had major budgets for such obvious and descriptive domain names.
That said some website owners have purchased the domain they want for a few thousand dollars or less. If the domain is not being actively used and you want it, it could be a good deal to buy it.
Another alternative is to buy a recently abandoned domain. A significant number of websites disappear every year for one reason or another. However, if the domain was connected to a good website it would have built-up some links and reputation with search engines. By buying the domain you can potentially extract some of that benefit for your own new site. Inevitably so many people are aware of this that competition for recently expired domains is intense. Those that deal in domain names can register their interest in a domain, which means it will be automatically purchased for them, should it not be renewed.
Registering all the variations
As an absolute minimum you should register the com, net and org for your chosen name. Obviously, you should also register the country code for where you do most of your business, (or where you plan to do business). This means that if the UK is your main market register com, net, org, co.uk and eu.
If you cannot register all the main domains for your name, (some are already registered), we would say you should keep looking.
The reason for this is that you do not want to invest time and money in a domain that is or could be used by another party. So you should not spend money on a net, if the com is already gone. We would even state do not register the co.uk if the com is gone. Some people may well disagree with this advice, but these tend to be people who have never gone through the trauma of domain name disputes. (We have, so we know.)
Likewise, once you have registered the main domains the buying does not stop there. You should immediately register any viable variations as well. Viable variations could include plurals, misspellings or similar sounding names. It may not be possible to get every single one, even the big guys miss out on that, for example: amazons.com does not go to amazon.com, buy they did get amazonn.com, amzon.com, aamazon.com and amaon.com – you get the idea.
As for similarly sounding, take a look at amuzon.com.
Now we cannot tell if Amazon registered these domain name variations initially, or whether they sued other parties to gain control of them. But we can definitely say that defensively registering obvious variations is a lot cheaper and safer than waiting and then resorting to lawyers.
That said it is probably impossible to register every possible variation, for example a quick search shows (at the time of writing) that amuzon.org is available to register. You may be able to register it, but just you try and use it, you will be on the wrong side of a lawsuit before the electronic ink is dry on your ill-advised purchase.
Another point, we all make mistakes. Google did not register oogle.com, and subsequently lost the resulting domain name dispute. The dispute also handed oogle.com a large amount of free publicity. Just google “google domain disputes”, you will get back more than 6 million results.
If you think we are being a bit paranoid about this whole issue, we would just like to point out that some of our own clients have experienced this sort of sharp (but legal) practice. It is simple to obtain lists of recently registered domain names and then register similar ones and just sit on them in the hope that the owner of the “main” domain or someone else will make you an offer.
You have a choice here – register before them or allow them to register and effectively let them pay to take the domain out of circulation. The second option is quite satisfying, but higher risk. The other party could always use the name or sell it on to someone who will.
These so-called squatters are the scourge of website owners, but loved by domain name registration companies – for obvious reasons. Many of them have absolutely no intention of investing any time or money in their dodgy domain, they are hoping you will do all the work and they will benefit indirectly from typos and confusion.
Domain name automatic renewal
If you have a significant number of domains (and you value them) it is a good idea to setup the auto-renewal of those domains with the domain name company that registered them on your behalf. This is how domain registration companies generate a large part of their revenues. Because of this it will be easy to setup automatic renewals, most domain name companies will nag you to do it, much like magazines nag readers to pay by direct debit.
However, you should be aware of the following –
1. The on-going costs of continually renewing names, particularly those you do not actively use.
2. Some domain companies appear to charge customers a little bit more for domains that are either renewed manually by you or automatically renewed. Alternatively, they (where applicable) seek to renew your domain for longer than the minimum renewal period for that domain.
Some companies argue that renewals cost more because the fees they are charged have increased. This is rubbish. If it were true then the price for registering a new domain should be the same as the price for renewing a domain.
When we have quizzed domain name companies about this they have said they are prepared to reduce the price at the time of renewal, if contacted. So there is definitely room for negotiation here, particularly as you are a source of on-going revenue to them.
Our advice in this situation is to find a company that does not engage in these practices, register your domains with them and keep them with them. Also don’t be afraid to ask for a discount prior to any renewals, it only takes an email or call.
Domain name registration period
Depending upon the type of domain they can be registered for different time periods.
For example, a “.co.uk” domain can only be registered for a period of 2 years, after that it must be renewed.
However, com, net, org, can be registered from 1-10 years. Some companies also offer a discount if you register for a 10-year period.
The discount will probably not be that great, but that is not the reason to do it.
Search engines and domains
Search engines, particularly Google are known to take into account how long a domain name is registered for when assessing a website. Obviously Google uses hundreds (maybe thousands) of different metrics in its algorithms to assess how far up a site should be displayed in its index. Google looks at the length of registration period for so-called “top-level domains", such as com, net and org, because it believes that if a domain is registered for a 10-year period the registered owner intends to invest time and money building up the website on that domain. Conversely, if a domain is only registered for a 1-year period that may, (only may) indicate less commitment. Also, spammers and scammers tend to only register domains for a short period because they drop them if and when those domains are blocked or flagged by spam fighting services or search engines.
However, given that search engines use so many signals to assess a website this will only ever play a minor part in the overall assessment of a site – however it helps.
If someone is infringing your name or registered similar domains, or another party is accusing you of doing the same, you will probably need some legal advice. We can recommend suitable lawyers wherever you are, so feel free to contact us.
There is so much more to write regarding domain names, so we will, we will keep updating and adding to this article.
Facebook has launched a legal challenge to gain control over a number of Facebook-themed domains, including "FacebookAteMyBaby.com" - no honestly, not a joke - thenextweb.com