There are many things a web designer has to think of when designing a website. Moreover, if he has full responsibility, he has to come up with a good domain name as well. Although many think it is not so important, the domain name is as important as your company name, the website or the Facebook page. Having a good domain name will many times not only bring you more traffic, but also make your webpage easier to remember – and this brings traffic too.
Finding the perfect domain name is not easy in today’s web. Many of the domains which you could think of using are either used by another company or bought for profit by individuals or even other businesses. Web professionals often spend more time finding the right domain name than designing an identity or a website.
Branding is a very important concept for a business. Every company has a brand, which represents their name, logo, color schemes and visual identity. However, not all of them are branded. The difference is in the brand awareness. A company with a brand awareness relies on their customers’ ability to recall and recognize their brand in different conditions and link them to their brand elements. It has something to do with clients being satisfied with a product and recognizing the products. It is the difference between Coca-Cola and a no-name Cola company. Or the difference between Apple and a Taipei-based unknown tablet producer.
Ten years before it was not the case, but today if you have a company and want a powerful brand, basic knowledge of domain names is very important, as it is similar to your office address. It is where people can find and get in touch with you.
The three most used extensions in the world are .com, .net and .org. A domain name with one of these extensions might seem ideal for any kind of business. Going for a free international domain such as .tk might not be so successful. It happens many times that visitors can’t remember your website, so they try the name and these three popular extensions. This is what I also do most of the time, as I assume a company I would be interested in doing business with, or a website I would be interested in visiting would have one of these three extensions. The three top extensions got so popular that, as I just said, visitors just expect companies to use them.
Some domain names providers offer the option of buying all three at a discounted price. Having all three of them with your brand name will be very useful for you in the future – this is a very intelligent move that will put you in pole position.
Another advantage of using all three (or one of the three) is that they are very cheap to buy. The support for them is also all over the place and it it more difficult to find a provider which doesn’t sell them than one which does. Now I am not saying you simply have to own one of these three. WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg has one of the coolest domain names ever: www.ma.tt. Yes, he has a Trinidad & Tobago domain, but it fits his name perfectly. If you can find something intelligent like that, go for it. But think of the fact that people who don’t know too much about the web don’t even realize there is something else besides .com, .net and .org.
This section should be food for thought. However, choosing the domain extension should be one of the easiest task in creating a powerful brand. But wait, there is much more to follow.
Talking about extensions, location is something else you might want to think of. It depends a lot on your business and its purpose. It depends a lot on the audience, market and their behavior. If you have a Danish company targeting only Danes, having a website ending in .com would make no sense, when the option of having a .dk extension is easy to spot. All countries have their own domain extensions. TLDs (top-level domains) are obviously not the only ones available.
Image by annaOMline.
Using a country-code TLD is mostly for companies and individuals in the respective country. Wikipedia has a long and complete list of worldwide TLDs. It is easy to notice that some of them require either having a company registered in the country or at least a permit of residence, therefore registering them might not be so easy if you look at coming up with a trick as Matt did.
It is also an option for the ones targeting nations not using an English alphabet, like the Asian or Arabian countries; or Russia. Those are called IDNs (Internationalized Domain Names) and you should only use them to supplement a .com address (or any other TLD); otherwise it will get confusing for visitors whose main language is English or whose alphabet is the one we use in Europe or America.
We talked about them a bit earlier. Hacks are those smart things you can do to integrate the domain extension into your domain name. Surprising or not, there are even tools out there on the web that can help you find possible combinations. Domai.nr is probably the best one to use, as it gives you very many options at a simple search. People decide to use hacks not only because they are cool, but mostly because they are very close to finding the right domain name for their company, but it is taken. This is so frustrating and it will happen so many times when you search for a domain name. Finding the right domain name for you is not going to be easy, therefore you might want to look into hacks.
Great, now you found your domain and are ready to buy it. No, you are not! Something is missing. You need to make sure your domain name does not create legal issues. Make sure it is not similar to the one of another company doing the same business as you do.
Microsoft vs. MikeRoweSoftis the most popular dispute regarding domain name infringement. This happened almost 10 years ago and was a huge case in the media, when the young web designer Mike Rowe was disputing his domain name with the American giant because of the domain name’s resonance.
Applying for a trademark is something huge companies do, as they know their websites will be popular by default, but this is really expensive to go for. If you are just in the beginning, you might want to protect your name some other way and leave purchasing a trademark for later down the road. Some technique you could use is called bulk purchasing. Many individuals prefer to buy lots of domains with different extensions, but the same name, and redirect all of them to the main website.
A mistake many individuals make is registering their domains under a WHOIS privacy service. This is a very dangerous technique, although it seems like it is a helpful one first time you hear about it. What happens if you register your domain under a WHOIS privacy service is that your contact details are hidden. Instead, the fields are filled in with the name of your provider. Why is this dangerous? Because according to ICANN policies, is the name in the WHOIS details that owns the domain.
This means that if your website gets hacked, you have little chance of proving the domain was actually yours. If their name is in the records, it is actually them owning the domain you paid for. So even if you want to protect your name, I don’t advise you to do it by using these services, as it is very dangerous.
Having a good domain name can also improve the user experience on your website. Even if today many of a website’s visits come from search engines and referrals, having an easy to remember domain name is always going to be helpful. They are likely to reduce the percentage of people forgetting how to find you.
Keep in mind that top-level domains can help you in search engine results. A .com will always be indexed faster and better than a .ru. Spending time to think of all details and find the right domain name is something that will take a lot of time.
Is there a specific way you search for a domain? Have you ever paid for a domain through an auction? Do you think the domain name matters?
Christian Vasile is an enthuziastic Romanian web designer currently living in Denmark. He is passionate for the industry and writes about design, usability, coding and freelancing and is a regular publisher here at 1WD. You can follow him on Twitter at @christianvasile or visit his web portfolio by clicking on the link above.