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Summary:

Back in the good old days (say, five years ago) picking a domain to host your web presence used to be simple. You just found a word you liked, bought the .com (usually at some price that today seems exorbitant) and that was that. But the landscape has changed considerably.

Back in the good old days (say, five years ago) picking a domain to host your web presence used to be simple. You just found a word you liked, bought the .com (usually at some price that today seems exorbitant) and that was that. But the landscape has changed considerably. On the one hand, there are tons of competing top level domains where you can register. On the other, it sometimes seems that all of the good names are taken.

It’s worth putting a bit of thought into the place you choose to call your home on the web. Like it or not, your domain name will become part of your personal branding; people will remember your web site and email address and associate it with you. That’s why choosing something like ilovedrinkingtoexcess.com is probably not the best professional move.

Despite the blandishments of new top level domains like .pro (relaunching in September) and the recent poorly-handled opening of .me, for most web workers .com is still the place to be. That’s because no matter how internet-savvy you are, it’s fairly likely that your customers still hear “internet” and thing “dot-com.” If you want to be found, put your site where the clicks will go.

But you may not want to limit your presence to .com. On commercial ventures I’ve been a part of, we’ve also purchased the analog .net, .org, and sometimes .biz and .info domains, and redirected them back to the .com site. This serves the dual purpose of picking up a few folks who type in the wrong name, and keeping domain squatters and ad farms from trying to take advantage of us.

Of course, choosing a top-level domain for your site is only half the battle: the other half is choosing the name you want. As we’ve recommended before, one thing you should do is lock up your own name, even if you let it lie fallow for a bit; if you make it big, telling people to just go to “myname.com” is simple. But while you’re on your way up, it’s probably better to find a domain name that matches your business name. You want something short, memorable, and interesting, even if it takes you a while to find one that’s open.

What about the “Web 2.0″ names? Despite the obvious successes of some like Flickr and Meebo, I’m not a great fan of sticking together nonsense syllables for your personal branding. Do you really want to be known forever as the person behind Flooboo.com if the company becomes one of the casualties of the next market downturn? I didn’t think so.

If you’ve been through the domain naming jungle recently, what choices did you make, and how?

  1. The .pro TLD appears to be restricted to doctors and lawyers only. Other professionals need not apply. I have fiddled with using my full name as a brand. I have khurt.com and khurtwilliams.com but those names don’t say what service or product I offer. TechGeek.com or WebGeek.com are taken.

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  2. How timely, I just had a meeting on this today with regard to what HP’s strategy will be as domains open up. You can imagine how a seriously a large company takes it’s international brand and it gets pretty complicated when you consider things like non-English domains and more top level domains opening up soon.

    For my personal blog, as Mike advises, I was looking for something short, memorable, and that matched my topic of non-technical career advice for techies. Would you believe nerdguru.com was taken? I didn’t like anything that was open .com-wise, so I settled on nerdguru.net.


    Pete Johnson
    Hewlett-Packard Company
    Portals and Marketing Solutions IT Chief Architect
    Work email: pete.johnson@hp.com
    Personal email: pete.johnson@nerdguru.net
    Personal Blog: http://nerdguru.net

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  3. I recently went through a “domain diet”. I felt it was necessary to review the domain(s) I had to figure out if I really was using them or if I needed to let them go. When all is said and done, it helped me to really rethink my business.

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  4. A good article. Though, living in Finland, it is very important to register a local domain (.fi). The basic rule is that if your company is operating only locally, all you need is a .fi domain. If you’re a global operator, use both .fi and .com, even .eu if Europe is generally important (and you are not selling lollipops only).

    If your company isn’t very well known and your website isn’t too convincing, using a .com domain could affect dramatically to sales and contacts or whatever it is your site should give you. Locally .fi domains are considered more secure and trustworthy than .com domains.

    And ofcourse the domain has an effect in Google searches where locality matters.

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  5. @Jamo – Good point; I admit I know very little about the business implications of domains for those working outsidek the USA, so I’m glad you brought us some insight.

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  6. Sometimes I find it frustrating looking for domain names available, but other times I realize how much more creative it pushes me to find a word or a creative word combo that makes a memorable site. I used to own a site called got2begreen.com and I think the name worked out.

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