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?