Choosing The Right Domain Name For Your Online Identity
by Tom Elliott
What's in a name? Yes, it's a clichéd question, but it is of paramount importance when it comes to your Website. As you've read in my book, the seemingly trivial task of "pick a name" takes on a whole new meaning when you must consider the way that the Internet handles domain names.
You will find yourself having to answer a series of other questions in order to make the right decision. Will your domain name "work" (will it be understandable) when you remove the spaces between the words? In addition to the .com and the .net variations, should you also protect your identity by getting the .info, .biz, .org, etc? Should you register it for one year, or for several? Is your name easily misspelled, and if so, should you also register the common misspellings so customers "accidentally" find you on purpose (or intentionally find you by accident, depending on how you look at it)?
Okay. Now that you have all of those answered, you go to register your well-conceived name. But alas, it isn't available. Now you're back to the drawing board. For Pete's sake, how hard can it be to pick a name? (And you thought it was a two-minute process!) REGISTERING the name is a two minute process, once you find one that is available. Getting to that point involves (potentially) a lot more work.
Here are a few points to ponder when you set out to pick a name. This guidance is in addition to the advice I give in the book, so if you've already read "Website 411: Business Survival in an Internet Economy," this builds upon what we've already discussed.
- Search engines have started looking at the length of time that domain names are registered. Since so many scams, "link farms" and other gimmicks only use domains with one-year registrations, you have a better chance of being found if you register your name for 3 or more years, ensuring that you renew it before it is within a year of expiring.
- It's an unfair practice (and unethical in my opinion), but your Web-savvy competition may register the variations of YOUR domain name and point them to THEIR site... Because of that, it's a good practice (and cheap insurance) to register the variations yourself at the time you register your main domain name. Protect your identity!
- Domain registrars (the companies that sell domain name registrations) don't like to leave money on the table. Therefore, if someone has shown interest in a domain name by checking its availability, registrar companies collect the information of domains that have been checked-but-not-purchased, and they sell the lists to bidders. Then, if any of the checked domains seem "catchy" or worthwhile, the domain gets purchased and auctioned by the person/company who bought the list. In other words, if you find a domain you like, BUY IT... If you wait, you'll probably lose it and have to potentially pay hundreds of dollars to get it back!
- Beware of bogus renewal notices. It's a common practice (much like long-distance companies did in the 1980's and 1990's) to solicit customers and try to get them to swap providers. Unless you have registered a private domain and kept your contact information confidential, it is easy for companies to find out who owns a particular domain name. You will get unsolicited mailings from these companies urging you to renew your name before it expires. (In fine print, it will notify you that the mailing is an advertisement, not a bill... but it will sure look like a bill). If you unwittingly send the non-bill back with your payment, the fine print also states that you are agreeing to transfer ownership and registration to THEM... at which point they own your identity, and can charge you whatever they want to let you use it!
It's a shame that I need to share all of these warnings on how to protect your interests... the list goes on. In a perfect world, there wouldn't be a need for it, but then again, we're not in a perfect world.
Now for a piece of advice on email accounts using your domain name. This kind of overlaps with my text message response page on marketing, but it's worth mentioning here. When you have your domain name, what's your next step? What do you do with it besides connect it to your Website? (Your Web developer can help you do that). It's pretty straightforward.
Email addresses, you may have noticed, all end in .com, .net, .org, etc. They are tied to domain names. You may be using email that your internet service provider supplies you with, using their domain name (like verizon.net, comcast.net, earthlink.net, cox.net, etc.), or you may have an email address from a third party provider that you check by logging into their Web-based service (like aol.com, msn.com, yahoo.com, hotmail.com, gmail.com, etc.). Either way is fine.
Once you have your own domain name, why not start using it for your emails? It's part of your identity and marketing. You'll have more credibility and better exposure when people go to YourName@YourBusiness.com rather than SomeNickname@AnotherProvider.com. Give it some thought. I've even seen some Website designer (usually small freelancers) that either don't have their own site, or if they do, their email address is to a generic email service provider... It makes me scratch my head. Along the same lines as the old expression "Never trust a skinny cook," how experienced and savvy is a Web developer without a Website, or one that doesn't have an email address from their own domain? Pet peeve of mine... Things that make you go "hmmmm. "
Just the same, you should work under your own flag versus flying someone else's. If you are "married" to your third party or Internet service provider's email account (meaning that you don't want to miss anything going into those accounts), most of them allow you to forward incoming message to another account (Your domain's). Yeah, I get stuck on the details.
The best advice I can give you is to find a reputable service provider that offers complete solutions (including domain name management), get a consultation to define your identity online, and let them register it on your behalf (ensuring that YOU own the rights to it.). Check the National Directory of Website Solution Providers on this site for a company near you, or give me a call at WebDrafter.com (866-421-3723) and I'll help you out. You can manage your domain name(s) yourself, but if you'd rather not tangle with the process, your Website solution provider can handle the technical details, annual verifications, and periodic renewals.
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