When registering a domain name, there are good choices and bad. While some criteria separating them differ according to the buyer’s intent (i.e. are you registering the name as a web address for your business or as an investment), some basic criteria are the same for all.
Character Length and number of words – Although there are exceptions, USUALLY shorter names with fewer words are preferable.
Does the name contain abbreviations? hyphens? numbers? embedded numbers? – Common abbreviations are usually OK, but the other factors lower the value of a name because they make it more difficult to accurately remember it or type it in.
Are the spelling and grammar correct? – If you are purchasing the name for a business, misspellings and incorrect grammar make for a bad first impression!
Does the name make sense with the extension? – Like basic black, .com goes with everything. So do commonly used cctld’s (country code domains) like .co.uk or .de. However some extensions suggest a certain purpose which may not fit with your name:
- .org – organizations, associations, education, health, nonprofits, helping others
- .net – networks, the internet, a common “second choice” to .com, but expect a percentage of your visitors to accidently type in .com instead of .net!
- .info – informational sites
- .biz – for-profit businesses (not frequently used)
- .tv – things you see on tv
- .us, .es, .asia – something pertaining to those particular countries
- .mobi – something you would access from a mobile phone
Familiarity of the term – Is this word or phrase familiar and commonly used?
Renewal Fees – How much will it cost annually to renew the name? While prices for .com, .net and .org are reasonable, certain “exotic” extensions can have high renewal fees.
Buying a domain for your business
If you’re registering a domain to use as the primary web address for your business, obviously the first choice would be your business’ name .com (outside of the USA cctld’s such as .co.uk might be preferred).
Other good choices for a domain name include:
- A “Brandable” name – something clever and memorable (but make sure it isn’t or doesn’t contain someone else’s tm!)
- Generic names that describe your business or profession (unless you have a very unique line of business these will probably already be registered, but its worth a try)
- Generic names with your location – i.e., WestPodunkOpthamologist, LousianaWidgetmaker
Finders keepers ?
But what if the name you want is not available? Depending on if or how it is being used, you may be able to purchase the name from its current registrant. Expect to pay from $50-$200 on up, depending on the type and quality of the name and how attached to it the current owner is. If it is making revenue for its owner, don’t expect them to give it up cheap! Single and double word generics will be the priciest, especially if they are .com’s! Browse through historical domain sales data on names similar to the one you want in places like dnjournal (lists domain sales over $2000) or namebio (includes info on more modest sales) for a better understanding of the market.
If your name is a registered or common-law trademark you may be entitled to acquire the name by legal means IF AND ONLY IF the current owner registered it in “bad faith” as defined by law … AND you can prove it. I strongly recommend consulting with a lawyer who specializes in domain law before pursuing this route. Lists of domain lawers can be found here (free registation at the Namepros forum required for access) and here. This is not an endorsement of any of these attorneys so please do your homework before retaining someone.
Tempeted to play dirty? Think again! If you try to wrest a name from its owner without legal justification you WILL lose and may end up with a “reverse cybersquatting” judgement against you – NOT something you want tied to your business’ reputation! Also, don’t think that registering a trademark will give you the right take a name you want AWAY from someone registered it prior to your mark – it doesn’t work that way and will only make you look like a bullying jerk. Play the game clean or not at all.
Some other important things to consider before you click the “buy” button:
- The “phone test” – how easy is it to communicate the domain name to someone over the phone? (Hyphented names and names with numbers substituted for letters, such as using number “2: for the word “two”, often fail this test).
- How easy is the name to remember and spell correctly?
- How does it look in print? – Your new domain name will appear on your business cards, stationary and advertising copy. If you have a long or multi-word name, you may want to get into the habit of capitalizing the starting letter of each word for clarity.
- Last but not least: be sure the words run together don’t inadvertantly make up some unfortunate combination like (these 2 examples were actually registered by businesses – much to their later embarassment) PenIsland or ExpertsExchange. Don’t see the problem with those? Un-capitalize the middle letters!
Next time: some considerations for beginning domain investors.