Registering a domain name is a very important step and not one to be taken lightly. Choosing the right domain name for yourself personally or for business, can make the difference between having a successful web presence or not. When thinking about which domain name to register, always follow these 5 basic rules.
Try to avoid registering a .net or .org or any other domain name extension if someone else has already registered the .com version of the domain name you’re looking for. If you were in a room with hundreds of people and asked those people to visit your web site at something.net, I guarantee you that the majority of the people will first go to something.com. The reason for this is that as humans, we’ve all been conditioned or acclimated to go to .coms first. The last thing you want is to register a .net extension and send a lot of your traffic to someone else’s web site that has already registered the .com.
Another and more dangerous reason is this; let’s assume that the person who registered the .com version of your domain name has a catch-all email account. This catch-all email account would allow them to intercept all emails sent to their domain firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and so on. If your domain was something.net and I mistakenly sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by accident, then the person who registered the .com could easily intercept email intended for you.
If you have no choice and have already register the .net or .org version of your domain name and someone else has already registered the .com, be careful! A good way to test if someone has a catchall email account is to try and send a bogus email to the .com version of the domain name. We’ve all done it, where we send an email to someone and it gets bounced back as non-deliverable. Usually because we mistyped the email address. So to test whether or not the person who owns a domain name has a catchall email account, simply send an email to some obscure user at their domain name (example: email@example.com) and see if it bounces back. If you don’t get a bounced email stating that the email was rejected, then that means they do have a catchall email account. It’s something that a lot of companies and individuals don’t bother to think about. Non-profit organizations are notorious for having this problem. They think that because they have NPO (Non-Profit Organizational) status, they had to go out and register the .org version of their domain name and didn’t bother to register the .com version as well.
Should someone else have already registered the .com version of the domain name you want, asking to buy the .com from them could open a can or worms. For instance the registrant for the .com may not be aware of you having already registered the .net or .org. If they have a trademark or believe you may be infringing on a mark, then it may cause problems you may not be prepared for.
In most cases, the .com isn’t being used or perhaps was registered by a cyber-squatter who’s goal is to get as much money as possible from the highest bidder. Regardless of what situation you may be in, think carefully before opening a can of worms. If you believe that someone else has infringed on your mark or copyright, please contact an attorney who has experience in dealing with these matters. By performing a Whois Search for a domain name that someone else has registered, you’re usually able to see who that domain name is registered to and most importantly, when it’s due to expire. Most cyber squatters will register a domain name for one year. If they can’t sell it, they usually don’t renew it. So sometimes the adage of “Silence is Golden” may come into play. Rather than contacting the person whom the domain name is registered to, you may want to just wait and see if they renew the domain name or not.
The best way to avoid issues like these is to always try and register a .com domain name before registering any other extension. Of course if an un-trademarkable domain such as books.net (which would be worth a lot of money) happened to be available, then that’s a different story.
If the domain name you wish to register can be easily misspelled, GRAB THE MISSPELLED VERSION(S) AS WELL. I cannot stress this enough. A perfect example of this is the domain name, PromoteOne.com. The correct spelling has the word “One” spelled out. However they were smart. They also registered promote1.com as well. That way if two people are talking to one another and one person says “you have to visit promote1.com”, it doesn’t matter which domain name they go to. Navigating to either domain name would resolve to the same web site. If just one person, went to promote1.com instead of promoteone.com and it generated a sale, then that sale just paid for the registration of that domain name for years to come.
Ask yourself if your domain name can be misspelled phonetically. For example the person who registers the domain name “4health.com” should have also registered “forhealth.com” and perhaps even “fourhealth.com.
I’m sure WalMart regrets the fact that they did not have the forethought to have originally registered the domain names “wallmart.com” or “wall-mart.com”.
Other variations are those domain names, which contain more than one word and where both words end and start with the same letter. For example, if a company called “Today’s Software” wanted to register a domain name, it would be prudent to register both “todaysoftware.com and “todayssoftware.com”. A lot of people when typing, don’t type the second letter when one word ends with the same first letter of the next word.
Our research shows that most people use plurals when performing searches or when going to a domain directly. This is why we advise to consider registering the plural version of your domain name. For example, if your domain name is “hotlure.com” then a smart move would be to register “hotlures.com” as well.
Its funny how many people don’t grasp the concept that the Internet is worldwide. We are all so used to doing business locally or within our borders that we fail to see the Internet is an International marketing medium. With that said, there are many words which mean the same thing yet are spelled differently based on region. For example most Canadians spell the word “color”, “colour”. So if your domain name is “colorconcepts.com”, then you should also have registered “colourconcepts.com” especially if they plan to sell to Canadians.
If you plan to sell products or services internationally, then register the same name in a different language. For example if your domain name is “sweetwater.com” and you plan to do business with Latin countries, then you should also register “aguadulce.com”.
If you’re company has many different and popular products, then register the names of those products. Take IBM for example. They were smart in that they obviously registered “ibm.com” but also registered “thinkpad.com”. ThinkPad obviously being a famous brand of laptop computers now being marketed by Lenovo, which bought IBM’s PC division in 2005.
Protect yourself. If you anticipate your domain name becoming popular, protect yourself and try to register the ancillary versions or your domain name (the .net, .org etc).
In the United States we have what’s known as an open registry system. That means that, with the exception of a .us domain name, anyone throughout the world can register a .com, .net, .org domain name. In the past several years, we’ve been seeing a big problem emerging called “Cyber Squatting”. Cyber squatting is when someone registers the .net or .org of a popular .com domain name in hopes of selling it to the person who registered the .com of that same name.
Not too long ago I spoke to a bank president who had registered the .com of his bank’s name. He said that someone from another country had registered the .net of his domain name and was extorting the bank to buy it from him. This cyber-squatter had offered to sell the .net domain name to the bank for twenty thousand dollars. In response, the squatter was told to go jump off a cliff. A month later the cyber squatter had pointed the .net domain name to a porn site while using the bank’s name and logo on the web site the cyber squatter had created. The squatter listed the domain name on search engines and now every time someone searches for this bank, a listing for the .net appeared and took them to a porn site.
After months of arbitration and thousands of dollars in legal fees, the bank was able to get their .net name back.
The reason I mention this is to make sure you protect yourself. Don’t go overboard but always make sure you register the .net and .org versions of your domain name as well. Domain names are one of the cheapest investments you can make. Ask yourself this question. If someone else registered the .net version of your domain name, got listed on search engines and it made it confusing for people to find you, would it bother you? If the answer is yes, then protect yourself and register the .net and .org of your domain name as well. Doing so also shows your due diligence in protecting your mark. It also makes your business a lot more valuable should you ever decide to sell your business in the future.
In the beginning of this article I said that anyone could register .com, .net, .org, .info and .biz domain with the exception of .us.
In April of 2002, the .us domain name extensions became available for registration. It was the first time that the United States had “their own” domain name extension. By that, only U.S. citizens and those companies doing business in the U.S. are allowed to register .us domain names.
For those of you wondering whether or not you can register more than one domain name, the answer should now be obvious. If you do register an ancillary domain name, you can simply point the domain name using our free URL Forwarding feature that would redirect your ancillary domain names to your primary domain name.
Try to choose a domain name that is short and easy to remember. Don’t get caught in the “acronym game”. A lot of companies decided early on that they would register only the acronym for their company name simply because it would be shorter to type out – bad idea. Take Union Bank Of California as an example. Their domain name is “uboc.com” yet they did not originally register “UnionBankOfCalifornia.com”. That’s nuts and cost them a lot of money to get it back!
Another example of this is the famous Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, CA. Everyone within a 50 mile radius of this hotel knows the Hotel Del Coronado as HotelDel including the owners of the hotel. They also made the mistake to not register the domain name hoteldelcoronado.com or hoteldelcorAnado.com (a commonly misspelled version). They too paid a hefty price to get their domain name back.
Always register your company name first. Then if the acronym for your company is available, then register that domain name as well. Remember that 97% of all one, two, three and four letter, and number combinations, are already registered. If your company name is ABC Corporation and abc.com is already taken, then consider registering abcinc.com, abccorp.com as well as abccorporation.com and abcorporation.com (remember what you read earlier words that end and begin with the same letter).
While the limit to the number of letters and digits a domain name may include is 63 (not including the extension), try to avoid registering a “primary” domain name that is too long. The longer the domain name, the more apt someone is to misspelling it. If the domain name you want is already taken, then get creative and try adding the word “online” to the end of your domain.
If your domain name consists of multiple words, consider registering the same domain name but separating those words with dashes or hyphens.
Nowadays search engines like Google have started to place more relevancy to a web site listing if the domain name contains some or all of the keywords that someone is searching for.
Let me give you a example. Let’s assume that the domain name “onlinestockquotes.com” points to a particular web site. Let’s also assume that the domain name “online-stock-quotes.com” (with dashes) also points to that same web site.
Search engines are comprised of algorithms and heuristics, and don’t posses high brain functions as in humans. To an algorithm, the domain name “onlinestockquotes.com” is just a bunch of characters. However by separating the words with hyphens, those search engines that use domain names as a means to score relevancy are now able to distinguish those words more easily. So in the scenario I just laid out, the domain name separated with hyphens will generally appear higher on a search result than the one without. Please note however that this is just one of many algorithms search engines use to determine relevancy and should not be solely relied upon. There are many different algorithms and heuristics which also play a big part in how your found in search engines. I should also mention that you should never use a hyphenated domain name as your primary domain name unless you already have registered the non-hyphenated version as well. Very few of us will remember to use a hyphen when typing out a domain name.
We hope that these 5 rules to registering a domain name help you. In today’s world domain names have become more important than your DBA. In fact the new rule when starting a company is to always check for your .com first before even choosing a name for a company.