|How to choose domain names
By Sumantra Roy
The importance of having your own domain name cannot be over-emphasized. If you are running an online business, and don't yet have a domain name, you are probably losing thousands of dollars worth of business because of this. Why? Simply because, unless you have a domain name, your customers will simply not feel comfortable buying from you. In order to sell on the web, you need to build up your credibility. Having your own domain name is the first step in that process.
So, now that you are convinced that you need your own domain, how should you name your domain? Here are a few do's and don'ts regarding this. While the availability of domains which follow all of these rules may have become limited, try to follow as many of these rules as possible.
1) Consider naming your company and registering a domain name starting with the digit 1. Better still, choose a name starting with "1st". Why? When people create directories of web sites, they have to decide how they are going to classify those web sites. One way to classify web sites is to list them on the basis of how "good" they are. Another way is to simply list them in chronological order (and sometimes in reverse chronological order) based on the dates the sites were submitted.
The other, and far more popular classification system is alphabetic. Now, the first character in the ASCII chart which can be used as the first character in a domain name is the digit 0. The next character is the digit 1. Normally, you wouldn't want to start a domain name with the digit 0 since it might send all the wrong signals to your customers. For instance, if we had named our domain 0SearchRanking.com, it would be telling our customers that we cannot get them any search engine rankings at all! Hence, unless you really have a good reason for doing so, you should avoid using domain names starting with the digit 0.
Instead name your domains starting with the digit 1. More specifically, name your domains starting with "1st". This will ensure that you get a high ranking in those directories which classify sites alphabetically. Furthermore, depending on the industry in which your company operates, it may also send the right message across to your customers - it indicates that you are the first company to consider in your industry.
And guess what - the mother of all directories - Yahoo! - lists web sites alphabetically based on the title that had been submitted. Yahoo! wants the name of your company to appear right at the beginning of the title. This implies that sites which start with the digit 1 will be ranked at or near the top. Assuming that you can get your site listed in Yahoo! (a Herculean task, no doubt) just look at what a top ranking in one of the categories in Yahoo!'s directory can do for the popularity of your site!
However, this strategy of creating domain names starting with the digit 1 will not work with The Open Directory. The Open Directory will only consider the portion of your domain that is really meaningful. This implies that it will ignore the "1" or the "1st" in your domain and will consider the portion of your domain after the "1" or the "1st". For instance, a site named 1stXYZ.com would be ranked with the sites starting with X, and not 1. Of course, in order to 'take care' of both Yahoo! and The Open Directory, you could have your domain start with "1st" and then have a proper English word starting with A after that.
Furthermore, a small caveat here. If you are going to name a domain starting with "1st", also register the domain which starts with "ist". Then, have the domain containing the vowel "i" redirect visitors to the domain containing the digit 1. This is because people will often type in 'ist' when they mean '1st' and vice-versa. In fact, I myself make this mistake all too often when I try to access my site from my browser. That is the reason I registered both 1stsearchranking.net and istSearchRanking.com. Furthermore, for every email alias that you create for the domain containing "1st " (like firstname.lastname@example.org), you should create the corresponding email alias for the domain containing "ist" (like email@example.com).
Also, this strategy of registering domains starting with '1st' is mainly applicable if yours is a somewhat new company. If you own a well established concern with a well known domain, you simply cannot change your company name and your domain in a hurry because you will confuse your existing customers.
2) Don't want to start your domain name with "1st"? Consider starting it with "A", "B" or "C". Although domains starting with A, B or C will be ranked after those starting with the 10 digits, you can still get a pretty high rank with A, B or C. Also, since The Open Directory considers only the meaningful part of a domain, domains starting with A will be the ones which are ranked first in The Open Directory. However, please don't name your domain in the form of AAASomeCompany.com - it'll make your company seem like a fly by night operator. (And you won't get a high ranking in The Open Directory either - it's going to ignore the "AAA" bit when it adds your site to the directory).
3) Try to register a domain which contains a popular keyword applicable for your industry. This will help your customers remember your domain name better. Furthermore, for searches conducted in Yahoo!, a higher ranking will be given to those web sites which contain the keyword in the title. As a minor side-benefit, this can also help to increase the ranking of your web site in some search engines like Northern Light and Hotbot. Hence, in an ideal case, you should register a domain of the form 1st[keyword].com (without the brackets of course). However, note that Northern Light and Hotbot are the only 2 search engines which will give any significant boost to URLs containing keywords. The other engines might give some preference to domains containing keywords, but it is too small to be noticed.
4) Don't register a domain containing the digit 0 in it, unless it is going to be part of a recognizable word (like 1000 or 2000). This is because the digit 0 is often confused with the vowel O. If you feel that you must register a domain with the digit 0, make sure that you also register the corresponding domain containing the vowel O.
5) Try to avoid using domains that contain '2' for "To', '4' for 'For', 'u' for 'You' and so on even if they seem to make your domain sound 'cool'. Your customers will easily get confused if you do so. However, if you must register such a domain, register the expanded form of the domain as well, i.e. if you are registering greatthings2do.com, also register greatthingstodo.com.
6) Should you or should you not use hyphens in your domain? Well, the jury is out on the question. While some Internet marketers will tell you that domains containing hyphens are difficult to remember, spell and pronounce, others will state that domains containing hyphens are, in fact, easy to remember, spell and pronounce. Go figure. Personally, I would feel that whether or not hyphens are helpful has to be determined on a case by case basis. However, if you register a domain containing hyphens, make sure that you also register the corresponding domain without the hyphens. Once you do that, you can simply redirect visitors from the domain without the hyphens to the domain with the hyphens.
7) Don't make your primary domain too long. Even though 67 character domains are a reality, exactly how many of your users will want to type a domain name like thisisanexampleofaverylargedomainname.com?
8) Always use ".com". If yours is a serious business site, avoid using domains ending in "nu" or "to". Your business will have little credibility if you do so. You can consider registering a ".net" domain, but since most people are familiar with ".com", it is better to stick to convention.
While it is unlikely that you will be able to register a domain which satisfies all the rules that I outlined above, try to follow as many of the above rules as you can.You can check out the availability of domain names and register new domains at Virtualis.