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Domain Names … and how to choose them

If you really want a presence on the Internet you’ll have to have a good domain name for your website. Good domain names are important. It has to directly reflect what you do or what you have to offer as a product or service.

If it is a non-commercial website you intend to develop, such as one based on your interests, your hobbies, skills, family or whatever, then your own name will probably be fine for a website (if the name is still available – check first). But if it’s for a business, a description of the business (e.g. LocaltownPrinters.com) would be better than a personal name, or the name of the business itself if it was long-established (e.g. J. A. Smith & Sons, Printers). Try turning THAT into a domain name: you’d end up with something like www.jasmithandsonsprinters.com. Not exactly memorable.

You could always capitalize the initial letters of each word (JASmithAndSonsPrinters.com), but who would remember that? Existing customers? Perhaps. But the real question is: would it be the natural thing to do to type that into a web browser in order to find a printing business in your town? Probably not. LocaltownPrinters.com is much more memorable. It also has a certain authority to it: you suddenly are THE local printing firm in that town: wherever possible, think generic (possibly with local connotations if you’re providing a local product or service) rather than specific to an existing traditional name. (Although, of course, the business name may well have started off as Localtown Printers sixty years ago – so that’s fine; it’ll be well-known and memorable.)

There was a short boom in the domain names trade in 1998-1999. Simply by owning good domain names it was assumed you could trade it with someone else who wanted it more than you did, and for a lot of money. The world responded to the wake-up call when Business.com was sold for $8.5m. All of a sudden everyone and his dog was registering imaginative domain names for the sole purpose of trying to sell them on. Suffice it to say that kind of activity has all but dried up; domain names, by and large, are now only registered for the purpose of building a website.

Domain Names Registration

Who do you register your domain names with? The world governing body of Internet domain names is ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). There are a lot of good “third party registrars” who will register domain names for you; they are actually brokers, and will register domain names on your behalf with the prescribed registrars for the particular type of name (for the .com, the .net and the .org names the registrar is Internic; for the .co.uk names and all other UK names the registrar is Nominet UK). A list of accredited registrars is available on the ICANN website. Click below to see if your chosen domain names are available, and to register them. This is the website of 123-Reg, which combines excellent value with high standards of service They also have strong associations with Web Fusion/Host Europe, the highly respected web hosting company. To register with 123-Reg, if you are based in the UK, just click on the link below:

These pages are designed for worldwide consumption, but we don’t have room to provide links for every country! If you are based outside the UK then you may want to look up the list of accredited registrars on the Internic website. For a registrar closer to home click here for Internic’s listing of registrars which, for convenience, is an alphabetical listing by country. Time zones and optimum availability of helplines often go together.

Value of Domain Names

As with any other commodity, a domain name ultimately is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Having stated this, there are several factors which positively or negatively affect the potential value of domain names. As the best domain names are spoken for, the price can be determined by how badly the buyer wants to buy and how badly the seller wants to sell. The second way to determine how much domain names are worth are the present or potential uses. A domain such as Windowcleaner.com is worth less than Dentist.com, the primary reason being that, since dentists can profit more from a good site, they should have to pay more for a good name than a windowcleaner. If your site is called JoeBloggs.com it will be worth less than Stockbroker.com. The more generic the better.

An important factor is the ending, or extension, of domain names. There are the so-called TLDs (or Top Level Domains). These comprise .com, .net and .org. Of these, the .coms are the most valuable as they signify a commercial interest or activity. Indeed, some browsers will default to a .com extension (if you type in, say, tyres, it will assume that you want to call up a website called Tyres.com). Next in the pecking order are the .net extensions, followed by the .orgs. There are a whole host of other Top Level Domains with extensions associated with a particular country. A third category of domain names, the most recent, have extensions which resemble the original types in that they seem to signify some kind of activity (like .biz or .info).

The length of a name is also important, the shorter the better. Fish.com will be more valuable than Marinelife.com, even though they describe much the same thing. Memorable domain names have a bearing on value, for obvious reasons. Industry association, market-sector considerations and the way the language is used are also important. Domain names that can be proven to attract lots of visitors are also worth good money; popular search terms always get the highest number of clicks, and “pointing” these domain names – they needn’t even be developed websites – to your own domain through the magic of web-diversion (your web hosting company MUST allow you to do this – see later section), you will bring all those visitors right to your own website.

Domain names may well have their own webspace. If this is the case they may have existing traffic – a steady flow of people clicking through to arrive at that website. Domain names with traffic are always more valuable than domain names without traffic.

The Future of Domain Names

Foreign domain names: .CC (the national domain extension of the Cocos Islands), .TV (the domain of Tuvalu) will become valuable for obvious reasons. Others will be sought for specific types of website – for example, ClassicalRadio.fm is a good branding domain for an FM radio station, the .FM extension being the national domain of French Micronesia. It looks as though ICANN will continue assigning new TLDs for as long as demand continues, though the currency and relevance of the later batch (in particular, the .Name extension for domains for individual use) is already being called into question.