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One of the hardest things for me when setting up new websites is thinking up good domain names.  Not only do they have to be catchy, they have to be available.  From my experience, any good domain name that's 4 words or less is probably taken. 

Here's a great article I read about this problem: Welcome to the world of cybersquatting.  This is when someone registers a domain name purely with the goal of selling it later.  They never intended to build a website at all.  In that article, there was a guy who grabbed TomCruise.com and other star names, to re-direct users to his gossip website.  Pretty sleazy.

I had this problem when I tried to get the name for a social network site I wanted to create.  Let's say it was "battlebeat.com" (not the real name).  When I entered the URL, it went straight to a price list that said "Domains for Sale."  The person wanted 55,000 British pounds (US$90,665.98) for the domain.  Ridiculous!  But I found the plural version of that name was available, "battlebeats.com."  I was able to secure that domain for $9.98 a year.  Whew!

 

Here are a couple of tips:

 

--Create a new word.  This often involves creative misspelling.  The downside of this is that your marketing has to really stress the spelling, to make sure users get it right.  For example, Digg.com has two g's.

 

--Use a foreign language.  For now, English is the default language in domain names.  So people often don't think of using other languages for their website names.  When Jeff Hoogland created his own Linux distro with the Enlightenment deskop, he called it "Bodhi Linux."  Bodhi being the Sanskrit word for "enlightenment."

 

--Use four words or more.  The longer a name is, the more likely it is to be available.  The disadvantage is that it's harder for users to remember.  One of the longest domain names I've seen was www.thebestpageintheuniverse.com


--Don't go for the .com. The .com is the main top-level domain (TLD) and the first choice for most web entrepreneurs.  But there are many others that might be a better fit for your site.  I think the .tv extension will get more popular as web video proliferates.  If you're a nonprofit, the .org extension might make more sense. 

 

Getting the right name can be a big deal.  Your website will be instantly recognized in people's minds, which is a boon for branding.  The SEO benefits are considerable, especially if you have keywords in the name.  So-called "exact match domain names" often get ranked on the front page of Google.  I had this happen once.  Within 48 hours of setting up a site, it zoomed to the top 5 results on Google for my chosen keywords.

 

Have you guys ever had trouble getting the domain names you wanted?

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Comment by Marcus Sortijas on June 30, 2011 at 9:04pm

@Kevin: That's a great story!  Glad you outsmarted that domain squatter. 

 

For my latest website, my first-choice domain name was available--I was shocked, that's never happened before.  I snapped that up quick.

Another important point I forgot to make is that it's not enough to just get the domain for your website. With the social media explosion, you also need the Twitter handle, Facebook page name, YouTube account, etc. 

The extra annoying about Facebook is that they make you jump through hoops to get a custom name.  Instead of facebook.com/yoursitename, it's something like facebook.com/yoursitename1904528379347. 

Comment by Kevin Luttrell on June 29, 2011 at 9:34am

Domain gold farmers are so 1999-- and a real thorn in the side of the rest of us.

But with a little savvy and a few mad web skills, we can outsmart these smatypants cyber-speculators and grab the domain we need when they are not looking.

A few years ago I discovered that the domain I wanted for my  business was tied up by one of these speculators so I picked up a couple of variations on the name and camped the domain I wanted for two years. Periodically I'd check the registry to see when it was scheduled to expire. Since these people don't actually use the domains they own, the domain registration you want can expire while they are focused on their next get rich quick scheme. As the due date grew near and the domain registration didn't automatically renew, I knew this person wasn't checking the email address on record where the notifications were sent so pounced and back-ordered the domain for a low price.

Due to ICAPP rules, defaulted domains also go through a waiting period culminating in an auction process -- if someone places a bid during the auction, the former owner is notified and given an opportunity to counter bid. In my case, nobody bid on the domain so I waited until 1 hour before the auction expired and placed a minimum bid. Ding! I won and the domain I wanted became mine.

This was a major headache. But if you own a business, a domain is an integral part of your brand. Whenever I would try to drive customers to my website, the name for my website didn't match my business name and that caused a lot of confusion. Now everything in the brand matches so it was worth the effort. Besides, it felt good to outgeek the smartypants domain speculator.

 

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