What’s in a name?

Sep 9, 2020

Long before the Web, even the Bard was pondering…

When it comes to your domain name, the moniker you choose pointing the way to your online website, it seems there’s a great more than you might initially think.

Back in the last millennium, there were still millions of domain names. Since the inception of the Web, they had proliferated like rampant mushrooms on steroids. You had to think out of the box to get something that answered your needs, was reasonably pronounceable and yet was still unique. Since then the competition has got a whole lot harder. Mother, of obscure Irish descent, was want to dismiss ideas dissonant to her own by saying opinions were like noses, everybody had one.

And this is where we are today. If the year 2000 saw millions of them that number is dwarfed by their descendants today. Unlike most ‘life’ forms, few of them die. They persist through the generations and most of the better examples are hoovered up by companies specialised in reselling them. Getting a good domain has not been easy for a long time but now it can be a nightmare. Which leads many of us in our frustration to commit domain name sins from few, if any, are ever absolved.

Never register a domain name with a hyphen. If there’s one kiss of death for domains, that is it. It will plaque your potential visitors worse than anything that descended on the Pharos of Egypt long ago. For a start, if you’re talking to somebody, how do you pronounce a hyphen? Answer – you don’t, you have to explain its presence. It’s something else for people to remember and frequently they don’t – so they never find you.

The few letters after the last dot are known as the TLD (Top Level Domain). They predominantly linked to the country of origin – dot.co.uk is the UK, dot.es is España or Spain, and sp on. Guidance here suggests that using domain names with a TLD of dot.co (Cocos Islands) may make it easy to get the front bit to say what you want but that suffix will decimate your visitor success. People will add the letter ‘m’ at the end to form the ubiquitous dot.com almost without realising. And that will give them a not found error or, more likely, send them bowling off down a wrong turning to somebody else’s website.

We all know the pinnacle of choice is for something.com – the original TLD standing for the word commercial and pertaining to the USA. Since they are the ‘natural’ choice TLD, good domain names with that suffix are now rarer than rocking-horse fertilizer. So we are all tempted to slide off into the ugly sisters dot.org and dot.net. This is not a good idea. Each of those has their own connotation and are akin to state TLDs like dot.gov which do not jibe well when trying to create a friendly online image.

So, where to go? The answer is you bite the bullet and go for simplicity. Not only is your domain name significant in conversation, but it’s also equally so in print; it’s all over your business cards, advertising and emails. What you may not know is that it’s equally important to the search engines including the silver-backed gorilla that leads the pack Google.

Google will look for keywords in your domain name, words that people type into their search line. No matter there are no spaces between the words, Google figures out what they are or might be. If you have a domain name chocolatehotdogs.com then you stand a good chance of being listed if people are searching for: chocolate, hotdogs, or even just dogs. If they type all three in their search the likelihood you’ll be high on the results list is strong.

Use your domain name to tell people what your site is about. Don’t worry (too much) if it gets a little long. Most folks memories can cope with a short sentence. What they can’t handle is a jumble of letters in an acronym – another domain affliction best avoided. mygreatchocolatewebsite.com is far better than mgcw.com however short and snappy the latter might appear on initial acquaintance.

These are the major points. Avoid hyphens and irrelevant country TLDs unless your business is actually based in the Cocos Islands. Go for a dot.com or dot.co.uk or whatever your country is and avoid a bunch of mixed numbers and meaningless letters. Do those things and you can, with a dollop of creativity, still come up with a good domain name – even today!

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